Year of the Rooster: Retroåret 2017

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Fortiden blir lengre for hvert år. I 2017 har det kommet så mange flotte reutgivelser og samlinger at man nesten ikke trenger å høre på ny musikk. Vel, bare nesten da. Vi har feiret at Bob Seger og Yoko Ono, for å ta to vidt forskjellige artister som eksempel, har kommet på plass i de digitale platehyllene, men aller viktigst var selvsagt at hele katalogen til ECM nå endelig er tilgjengelig i sin fulle bredde. Kvalitetsgarantister som Numero, Strut og Light in the Attic, og vår hjemlige Runde 2, bidrar til å pumpe ut gull fra arkivene, og eldre utgivelser blir til stadighet støvpusset og nylansert. Dette er mine fem favoritter fra retroåret 2017:

Hüsker Dü: Savage Young Dü
(Numero)


Numero er alltid en kvalitetsgaratist, og markerer sitt katalognummer 200 med praktboksen Savage Young Dü der de dokumenterer den tidlige fasen til Hüsker Dü. Her får du 69 låter, derav 47 tidligere uutgitte, som følger Minnesota-trioen fra den spede begynnelsen i 1979 og fram til de signet med SST i 1983. Dette er en viktig og fullverdig dokumentasjon av et band som utviklet seg fra ubehøvlet punkrock til et av de aller mest sentrale bandene i framveksten av den amerikanske undergrunnsscenen. Savage Young Dü høres digitalt, men nytes også i fysisk format i kraft av en massiv og godt illustrert bok.

Lal & Mike Waterson: Bright Phoebus
(Domino)


Nydelig remastering og reutgivelse av et særs vanskelig tilgjengelig album, opprinnelig utgitt i 1972. I tillegg til the Watersons ble innspillingen gjestet av nær sagt halve den britiske folk-scenen på 70-tallet: Martin Carthy, Richard Thompson, Ashley Hutchings, Dave Mattacks, Tim Hart og Maddy Prior er alle med her, på en plate som jevnlig og rettmessig beskrives som ‘a folk-noir masterpiece’.

Neil Young: Hitchhiker
(Reprise)


Man blir aldri ferdig med Neil Young. I hvert fall vi som er ekstra glad i den midtre 70-tallskatalogen hans. Hitchhiker har ligget på lager i hans legendariske arkiver altfor lenge, selv om mange av låtene herfra har sivet ut i årenes løp. Sammen med produsent David Briggs gjennomført Young såkalte ‘full moon sessions’ i årene 1975-77, og det er fra en slik kveld disse opptakene stammer fra. Nærmere bestemt 11. august 1976. Sammen med etablerte klassikere som “Pocahontas” og “Powderfinger” dukker også uutgitte “Hawaii” og “Give Me Strength” opp på en skive som bærer med seg den endeløse solnedgangen fra California på 1970-tallet slik bare Neil Young klarer å fange den.

U-Men: s/t
(Sub Pop)


Jeg har så vidt nevnt U-Men her inne tidligere, og nå har jammen meg Sub Pop skrapet sammen hist og hint fra dette oversette bandet fra Seattles pre-grunge periode. Mark Arm (Mudhoney) har skrevet liner notes, og han beskriver dem egentlig bedre enn noen andre: The U-Men are one of the best bands I’ve ever seen. They were hypnotic, frenetic, powerful and compelling. It was impossible to resist getting sucked into their weird, darkly absurd world. They effortlessly blended The Sonics, Link Wray, Pere Ubu, and Captain Beefheart. Their shows were loose-limbed, drunken dance parties and no two shows were alike. The U-Men were avant garage explorers and, most importantly, they fucking rocked.

VA: Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes
(Ostinato)


Det kommer tonnevis med samleskiver fra hele globusen i løpet av et år, enten det er psykedelisk rock fra Ghana eller strupesang fra Tibet som blir dokumentert. Så mye fet musikk fra alle verdenshjørner og tidsepoker, så liten tid til å sette seg inn i alt. Denne får lov til å representere musikk som ofte blir ignorert, i hvert fall med vestlige øyne. Sweet As Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes er ikke bare en musikalsk skattekiste, som omfavner funk, Afrobeat, reggae, folk og mer, men også en kulturell dokumentasjon over et land som var – og sikkert er – langt mer enn borgerkrig og flyktninger. Vakker musikk, trist bakteppe.

…best of the rest…
The Replacements: For Sale: Live At Maxwell’s 1986
Drivin ’N’ Cryin’: Mystery Road (Expanded edition)
Buffalo Tom: Let Me Come Over: 25th Anniversary Edition
Throbbing Gristle: 20 Jazz Funk Greats (Remastered)
Fingers Inc.: Another Side
Acetone: 1992-2001
VA: Wayfaring Strangers: Acid Nightmares
Jackie Shane: Any Other Way
Mulatu Astatke: Mulatu of Ethiopia

Retroåret i spillelister

Vil du grave litt mer ned i musikk fra fortiden, nær og fjern, så har jeg plukket ut noen anbefalte spillelister på TIDAL laget i 2017, som inkluderer både strømlinjeformet country, punk, psykedelisk soul og frihetsjazz for å nevne noe. Bør være litt for enhver smak, i hvert fall for den som er nysgjerrig på musikk. God fornøyelse!

Murder Ballads: Stories of Misery & Mayhem

Murder ballads have a history that goes back to pre-modern times, with many originating in England and Scotland and written down, printed and sold on broadsheets already in the 17th century as true crime novels of their time. These dark and often grotesque stories have endured during the centuries in their purest form or mutating into something slightly different as they found new life on the other side of the Atlantic with the European settlers. A classic example would be the Appalachian murder ballad “The Knoxville Girl”, which can be derived under various names back to English ballads from the 1500s. But murder is also a frequent topic in American ballads, as Library of Congress states: “Many murder ballads were composed in America, especially after famous murder cases. An example is «Pearl Bryant,» a fictionalized account of the murder of Pearl Bryan in Kentucky in 1896.” This playlist is a collection of some of the most famous Murder Ballads, including “Tom Dooley”, “Stagger Lee” and “In the Pines”, as well as some more recent examples of the genre. [Ill: «Anguish», Albrecht Schenck, public domain]

Rumba on the River: Congolese Classics

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) harbors one of the most varied and vibrant music scenes in Africa, particularly centered on the capital of Kinshasa. Formerly known as Belgian Congo and Zaire, DRC started to develop a pan-Congolese musical identity after World War II with Latin tinged Rumba as the main craze. The formation of the popular and highly influential Le Grand Kallé et l’African Jazz (African Jazz) in the early 1950s turned out to be an important event in terms of shaping a unique musical identity as well as giving voice to a rising national self-confidence. African jazz also introduced African music to Europe, and their «Indépendance Cha Cha» (1960) is commonly considered as one of the first Pan-African hit songs. Congolese rumba (or Soukous) is still an important and integrated part of Congolese music, alongside added inspiration from funk, psychedelia and later hip-hop and electronica. Follow the musical development from colonial to modern times and gives you a glimpse into a highly exciting and energetic music scene.

Country Got Soul

It came out of the south. Centered in the ‘Country-Soul triangle’ of Memphis, Nashville and Muscle Shoals in the 1960s, Country Soul was the merging of country and soul music, bridging two genres sharing so much of the same genealogy. The styles were largely segregated at the time, exacerbated by racial identifications of their respective fanbases, but drew from the same musical lineage of gospel, rhythm & blues and folk. The irresistible and triumphant mixture of country and soul worked in favor of both styles and transcended the ‘musical color line’. This playlist guides you through some classics from the Country Soul triangle and beyond.

Surfin’ the Gutter: L.A. Punk Classics

Los Angeles and its surrounding areas are crucial for the birth and development of US punk music. A social movement of Regan-era misfits grew out of the vast and affluent suburbs of Orange County, California, and spawned the birth of hardcore punk in the late 1970s (Santa Ana’s, The Middle Class, Hermosa Beach’ Black Flag, and others). The Los Angeles punk scene is also closely associated with the birth of the melodic and super catchy pop-punk scene (Bad Religion, Descendents, NOFX), and Southern California is thus to a large extent responsible for the alternative rock explosion of the 1980s and 1990s. Enjoy this selection of vintage SoCal punk classics, including FEAR, The Germs, The Dickies and loads more.

Soft Rainbow Summer: Sunshine Pop

The soft, sweet sounds of Sunshine Pop (or Soft Pop) naturally arose in 1960s Southern California, drawing on several vibes of the era, including folk, psychedelia and easy listening. Characteristics include lush vocals, light arrangements and an overall sunny vibe. Groups like The Beach Boys, The Mamas & the Papas, The Turtles, The Association and the 5th Dimension are commonly considered important influences and popular archetypes of a style more than often populated with lesser-known acts. Sunshine Pop has amassed quite a cult following over the years, highly regarded and saved from obscurity by notorious album collectors from all over the world. Let the sunshine in! (Cover picture: Summer Nomads, Life Magazine August 14, 1970).

Electric Samurais: Japan Inside/Out

Japan boasts an extremely eclectic and wide-ranging music scene with prime artists on every level of the musical scope and beyond. This playlist is by no means an attempt to capture the entire national music identity of Japan, but is merely a glimpse into some of the most exciting, experimental and ethereal music coming out of Japan from the 1960s and onwards. Dig into this collection of gems from naive pop art to pure noise bliss.

Psychedelic Africa: Rainbows Over Sahara

Afro rock, psychedelia and raw funk played an important role in the music scene of many African countries from the 1970s and forward. Zamrock came out of Zambia to characterize a scene that was equally inspired by Jimi Hendrix and James Brown (including bands like Witch, Ngozi Family, Amanaz). Nigeria has a long and rich history, not to mention other West African countries like Benin and Togo, and of course among the Tuareg people of Niger and Mali. This musical journey takes you through some of the many highlights from the psychedelic sounds of Africa.

United Forces: Metal Punx

Metal heads and Punk kids used to squat on separate sides on disgruntled youth. But during the 1980s, the two camps found common ground through numerous crossover acts. This playlist highlights some bands and albums that helped unite metal and punk, tearing down subcultures’ dividing lines and paving way for new directions in hard rock in the years to come. Kicking it off with S.O.D’s «United Forces» as the perfect embodiment, and also including D.R.I, Black Flag, Metal Church and tons more.

Touch & Go: 30 Years of Discomfort

Touch & Go is among the most important independent record labels in alternative rock, not only for being home to 1980s pioneers like Butthole Surfers and Big Black, but also for providing a crucial nationwide network of underground culture. Touch & Go started out in 1979 as a music fanzine based in Lansing, Michigan, before turning into a record label that soon relocated to Chicago. Touch & Go soon enough broadened their hardcore punk roots (Negative Approach, The Meatmen) and expanded into unknown sonic terrain with seminal acts like Scratch Acid, Killdozer, Slint and Urge Overkill, and into the 2000s with bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio. Corey Rusk has been in charge of Touch & Go since the early 1980s, and still maintains the label, while now basically handling back catalog. Join in to a trip in the archives and some highlights from a catalog packed with gems, presented more or less in chronological order.

Black Gold of the Sun: Psychedelic Soul Explosion

In the latter part of the 1960s, many soul and R&B artists started to embrace the psychedelic rock sounds of the time, leading to a new and exciting hybrid dubbed Psychedelic Soul. The style turned out to be an inventive and influential musical trend especially for the subsequent birth of funk and disco, which eventually replaced it in mass popularity. Join in for a ride back to the heyday of psychedelic soul and artists like The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, Shuggie Otis, Sly & the Family Stone, and many others.

Jazz Is Freedom

Jazz is all about freedom from musical boundaries, exploring the unknown and looking ahead. This daring attitude resonates well with the avant-garde jazz pioneers in the 1960s, and on this playlist we pay tribute to just some freedom fighters – from Ornette Coleman and Pharoah Sanders to torchbearers in the modern day.

Wild Rodeo Ride: Cowpunk Classics

Cowpunk was term being used in the 1980s to describe bands that married traditional country and untamed rockabilly energy with a punk attitude. Los Angeles was a particular hotbed of cowpunk, and the scene is a precursor to the alt.country wave of the 1990s and what is being called Americana since turn of the century. This playlist gives you a taste of some cowpunk classics, including true pioneers and artists based more in the outskirts of the style.

Countrypolitan: Country Pop

With its blend of string-laden pop, sweet vocal harmonies and sensible country tunes, Countrypolitan followed the Nashville Sound as a hugely popular style throughout the late 1960s and 70s. Here are some radio friendly chartbusters alongside other favorites from the era.

The Nashville Sound

When the honky tonk of the early 1950s turned into rockabilly, the country roads led to a more prop friendly format known as the Nashville Sound. Studio producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley helped develop this style, replacing hillbilly instruments with strings and background choruses in an effort to reach the more adult oriented and commercially broader Nashville market. While honky tonk lyrics often dealt with working class issues like alcoholism, failed marriages and adultery, the Nashville Sound offered a more escapist approach both in tone and prose. Enjoy some of the era’s prime material, featuring timeless songs from the likes of Jim Reeves, Patsy Cline and many more. The Nashville Sound would later become known as Countrypolitan, distinguished from the Nashville Sound by even more lush arrangements and softer sounds.

Jazz Got Soul

Soul Jazz developed in the 1950s and is characterized by its mix of jazz, soul, blues, gospel and rhythm & blues, and closely associated with the hard bop style. We’ve picked out some groovy and soulful favorites that fit into this rather open category, including Cannonball Adderley, Lee Morgan, Jimmy Smith and other masters of soulful jazz.

More Sad and Slow Hits

In the early 1990s some bands started to turn inwards, imploding rather than exploding, in direct contrast to the prevailing indie/rock and post-grunge hegemony at the time. Terms like ‘slowcore’ and ‘sadcore’ were used to describe such artists that played really slow or really sad music. Or quite often both. Slowcore is not defined by one clear identity, but relates to hushed shoegaze, bleak singers / songwriters and experimental post-rock outfits that all found a common affinity in doing it slow. Press play and be patient.

Memphis Got Soul!

When President Barack Obama paid tribute to Memphis soul in 2013, he called the sound of Soundsville, U.S.A. “A music that, at its core, is about the pain of being alone, the power of human connection and the importance of treating each other right. After all, this is the music that asked us to try a little tenderness. It’s the music that put ‘Mr. Big Stuff’ in his place,” referring to Jean Knight and Otis Redding. Memphis soul grew out of Southern soul in the 1960s, immortalized on labels like Stax, Hi and Goldwax. Commonly described as more sultry and stylish than its origins in Southern soul, Memphis soul was a defining direction until disco changed the scene in the later parts of the ’70s. This is a collection of (mostly) vintage gems from a wonderful period in the history of music.

Intricate Guitars Inventive Rhythms

Math Rock is a term first used in the latter part of the 1980s and 1990s to describe a wave of inventive, new bands more than willing to stretch the limits with rhythmic structures and time signatures. Artists like Bastro, Shellac, Hella and Don Caballero are prime examples on bands shirking complexity in favor of simplicity and angularity in favor of the straight ahead sounds. Math Rock is no strict genre, more likely to be rejected by the ones involved, and is related to post-hardcore and emo as to jazz, prog and punk. The common denominator is their willingness to experiment, their openness for the adventurous and their courageous attitude toward the unknown. We cherish all of these with handpicked delights from just some of the names tied to the sound of intricate guitars and inventive rhythms.

Reklamer

Evil Empire: Lost American Underground 1980-89

Stikkord

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rooms

Den musikken man eksponeres for i den mest kritisk påvirkelige fasen av livet, siste halvdel av tenårene, skaper et fundament og gir en holdbarhet som varer livet ut. Uansett hvilke musikalske faser man senere går gjennom vil denne tidens soundtrack være en helt sentral del av ens DNA, like nedbrytbart for nervesenteret som plast eller plutonium for naturen, uansett senere kvalitativ distansering eller direkte avvisning. For noen vil det kanskje være en byrde å bære med seg sitt eget lydspor, noe som nærmest må nytes i all hemmelighet, inntil eventuelle revivals tillater etterlengtet og hemningsløs dyrkelse, for andre vil det være essensielle byggesteiner for livslang musikkglede, ja noe man kan slå om med seg med en viss stolthet.

Etter nesten 10 år med kassetter, og det som etter hvert ble en ganske brukbar samling, begynte jeg som 15-16-åring å kjøpe LP-plater i 1988. I løpet av bare det første året (alle innkjøp er grundig protokollført) var jeg oppe i et tresifret antall, og forholdet til hver og en av disse er nok sterkere enn hele resten av samlingen. Livet ville kanskje tatt en annen kurs, neppe til det bedre, men jeg tror ikke selve forholdet ville vært spesielt annerledes, om jeg hadde brukt større tid av de første aktive platekjøpende årene av mitt liv på Stock, Aitken & Waterman enn Touch & Go. Men jeg er veldig glad for at veien førte meg nettopp dit.

Band som R.E.M, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Dead Kennedys, Violent Femmes, Giant Sand, The Replacements, The Cramps, Fugazi, The Dream Syndicate, Butthole Surfers, Killdozer, Pixies, Black Flag, Mudhoney, Nirvana… etiketter som SST, Touch & Go, Zippo, Frontier, Slash, Enigma, Alternative Tentacles, Boner, Blast First var tidlig en naturlig integrert del av mitt vokabular. Jeg likte altså spesielt godt disse litt snåle amerikanske bandene som på den tiden tilhørte den alternative delen av musikken. Ikke spesielt avansert eller sært egentlig, i hvert fall hørt med dagens ører, men uansett et stykke unna hovedstrømmen. Denne artikkelen graver litt under disse nå mest etablerte bandene, og retter søkelyset mot noen mindre renommerte navn fra samme omgangskrets og samme periode.

record_collection

Jeg er ekstra glad i musikk fra den amerikanske undergrunnen, siden jeg oppdaget R.E.M og kjøpte Life’s Rich Pageant på klassetur til Bergen i 7. klasse (på Apollon). Verken Springsteen, Maiden eller Metallica kunne måle seg med skeive gitarer, låter uten refreng og dårlige hårsveiser. Det åpnet for et livslangt forhold som på den tiden lett kunne ivaretas, ikke bare i Oslos rike flora av platedealere, men også på en liten plass som Lillehammer, som på sitt beste hadde ikke mindre enn fire høyst oppegående platebutikker med kompetent betjening – og jevnlig oppdaterte importavdelinger – på en liten stripe: Rilla platebar (senere Basement), EzyRyder, bokcaféen Detteerikkenhundeterenulv og Innova. For en luksus!

Jeg har som sagt vært heldig, ikke bare for at jeg falt inn på en vei som på mange vis var musikkpolitisk kul, men som også har vært en konstant kime til nye oppdagelser og som alltid har vært et solid fundament i bunn å vende tilbake til. Senere musikalske smell har slått vel så hardt. Velvet Underground. Can og krautrocken. Coltrane, Miles og jazzen. Nick Drake. Eksperimentell metal og Americana. Og så mye, mye mer. Men denne listen handler ikke om disse oppdagelsene. Dette er en fordypelse inn i ungdommens velsignelse og evige forbannelse. Her er 20 overflødighetshorn fra den amerikanske undergrunnen som du kanskje aldri har hørt om – eller visste at du savnet. Your loss.

For en mer opplagt rundreise inn i samme tema, anbefales denne lista med 20 favoritter fra Amerikansk undergrunn 1980-89 med størrelser som Pixies, The Replacements, Violent Femmes og flere.

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human_switchboard_240Human Switchboard: Who’s Landing In My Hangar?
(Faulty Products, 1981)

To band svever i skyggene til Human Switchboard: Pere Ubu og Yo La Tengo tilhører begge utkantene av deres univers, siden de jobbet med både David Thomas og Dave Schramm i løpet av sin korte karriere. Og det er heller ikke unaturlig å trekke en musikalsk linje mellom disse to og plassere Human Switchboard et eller annet sted på midten.

Deres skeive og sjarmerende skranglepop domineres av off-beat melodier, framtredende Farfisa og denne litt nervøse, corky tilstedeværelsen som de delte med samtidige likesinnede som The Feelies, Violent Femmes og Talking Heads (Funkadelic/Talking Heads keyboardist Bennie Worrell bidrar for øvrig på et spor her).

Cleveland-bandet skaffet seg en viss fanskare rundt hjemtraktene i Midtvesten og på klubbene langs østkysten, spesielt i New York, og deres fanbase inkluderte visstnok både Beastie Boys og flanell-rockere som Mark Lanegan, Chris Cornell og Kurt Cobain. Sistnevnte skal ha omtalt ”Refrigator Door” som ‘the Stairway of Heaven on punk’.

human_switchboard

Deres første og eneste studioalbum ble Who’s Landing In My Hangar? (utgitt på en side-etikett av I.R.S), og er en oppvisning i rytmisk, utadvendt new wave/post-punk som i dag bærer en glans av fordums nostalgi – et sted mellom Blondie og Velvet Underground – uten at den har falmet altfor mye. Det saxy åpningssporet ”(Say No To) Saturday’s Girl” er en glitrende inngangsport til Human Switchboard og hadde selvsagt blitt en instant radiohit i en mer rettferdig verden.

Fun fact: Bob Pfeifer forlot musikken til ’fordel’ for musikkbransjen, seilte opp som A&R-boss i Epic, og på midten av 1990-tallet ble han faktisk president i Disney-eide Hollywood Records. Han fikk sparken et par år senere da styret oppdaget at han på rekordkort tid hadde kostet selskapet $150 millioner. I 2006 havnet han igjen i medienes søkelys – og i fengsel – for en mye omtalt avlytningsskandale. Han skulle kanskje holdt seg til jangle-popen.

hypnotics_indoor_240Hypnotics: Indoor Fiends
(Enigma, 1982)

Hypnotics er i det store og hele et fullstendig glemt band i dag. Og de var vel ikke spesielt renommerte i sin tid heller. Men, det er aldri for sent, og dette er et ganske underholdende album.

Hypnotics dro med seg røttene fra down and out LA-punk og forespeilet den kommende hardcore-bølgen fra Long Beach og South Bay-området. Stilmessig kan de nok sammenlignes med f.eks Circle Jerks og Angry Samoans. Enkelte nerder vil kanskje gjenkjenne bandnavnet fra den smått legendariske samleren American Youth Report (1982), der de spilte side om side med mer etablerte størrelser som Bad Religion, Descendents, TSOL og Redd Kross.

Indoor Fiends er både en debut og en svanesang for et band som aldri rakk å skrive seg inn i historiebøkene, men som like fullt tilhører den tidlige kretsen som definerte punken i sørlige California.

hypnotics

Hypnotics byr på snerrende og oppsetsig punkrock anført av vokalist Marky De Sade, framtredende keyboards og provoserende titler som ”Nazi Snotzy”, ”Kiddie Porn”, ”Celebrity Killer” og kanskje deres mest kjente to minutter: ”Weird People”. Ta en lytt:

Indoor Fiends er ikke spesielt lett å få fatt på i originalpressingen, men den er i hvert fall å finne på CD sammen med deres knapt utgitte andrealbum Expendables – som i hvert fall er umulig å finne – som fikk den helt passende tittelen Everyone Gets Their Nanosecond of Fame.

necros_conquest_240Necros: Conquest For Death
(Touch & Go, 1983)

Mye av grunnlaget for hele min platesamling – og spesielt denne lista her – tilfaller Corey Rusk. Sammen med Tesco Vee fra The Meatmen etablerte han Touch & Go som jo ble et svært så viktig  plateselskap utover på 1980-tallet. De var først basert som en fanzine i Lansing, Michigan, senere relokalisert til Chicago, og står ansvarlig for utgivelser med sjangerdefinerende band som Killdozer, Butthole Surfers, Die Kreuzen, Big Black, Didjits og utallige andre. Kvalitetsstempelet fra pionertiden hold det i hevd helt til det siste, men for min del er det særlig utgivelsene fra det første tiåret som står sterkest i bevisstheten.

Men før Corey Rusk tok over hele sjappa og fokuserte fullt på Touch & Go, var han med i Necros. De ble opprinnelig dannet på slutten av 70-tallet i Toledo-forstaden Maumee, og er allment anerkjent som et av de opprinnelige amerikanske hardcore-punk bandene, rått og slarkete som de var, og med en dæsj metal i miksen. Vokalist Barry Henssler (senere i SubPop-bandet Big Chief) sier i boken American Hardcore (Steven Blush): ”What I thought Necros were always trying to do was to have the Nugent rock vibe. One of the last Rock records I bought was Nugent’s Double Live Gonzo. I remember thinking: ’If this was ten times faster, I’d really like it’.”

Necros knyttet også sterke bånd mellom punkscenen i Midtvesten og harDCore-scenen i Washington DC, en allianse på utsiden av musikalske sentra som New York og Los Angeles, der band som Teen Idles, Government Issue og Minor Threat begynte å gjøre seg bemerket. Henssler sier i overnenvte bok: ”With us, if someone was friendly, we were friendly back… just a Midwest thing. I got into punk to get away from snobs – not to become a snob. They were rich DC kids and we were Midwestern bumpkins who didn’t summer in Martha’s Vineyard. I thought that if you aligned with this specific lifestyle, it meant dropping all the bullshit from the lifestyle you left.”

necros

Conquest for Death er en ren energibombe, tettpakket med autentisk råskap, snobbefri glød og pur fandenivoldskhet som ble skoledannende for så mange band i deres kjølevann. Sjekk ut “Police Brutality”, “Search For Fame” eller “Satisfy” som står igjen som noen av høydepunktene på debuten.

100_flowers_240100 Flowers: 100 Flowers
(Happy Squid, 1983)

Røttene til 100 Flowers er å finne i fantastiske og marginalt mer kjente Urinals. De eksisterte i tre korte år – fra 1978 til 1981 – og utga kun en håndfull singler/EP’er i løpet av sin karriere. Deres innflytelse på undergrunnsscenen utover på 80-tallet kan likevel ikke undervurderes, med band som Minutemen og Mission of Burma som et par opplagte arvtakere. Deres låter har også senere blitt tolket av blant andre Yo La Tengo, Gun Club og No Age.

Urinals hylles gjerne for sin minimalistiske, nedstrippede stil, men deres effektive togrepslåter (eller helst bare ett) og tilknappede tekster hadde sin naturlige forklaring: Medlemmene, alle studenter på UCLA i California, startet prosjektet uten musikalsk bakgrunn i det hele tatt, ja mest som en ren parodi på populærkulturen og punkrocken. De ville skrive så korte og enkle låter at de kunne bli spilt av alle. Forsøket var likevel så morsomt at de bestemte seg for å kjøre på, og Urinals ble raskt en del av punkscenen i California der de delte scene med blant andre Black Flag og Circle Jerks. Etter tre år var de såpass drevne at Urinals-konseptet hadde utspilt sin rolle. Da endret de også navn til mer ‘seriøse’ 100 Flowers, sikkert oppkalt etter Maos kortvarige håndsrekning til landets liberale. Musikalsk avanserte de også opp et lite hakk eller to, uten at det akkurat ble prog-tendenser over bandet.

100 Flowers ble deres eneste fullengder (gitarist John Talley-Jones forsvant senere til SST-bandet Trotsky Icepick), og er en oppvisning innen post-punk – spesielt den britiske varianten av typen Wire, The Fall og Alternative TV, funky hardcore og proto Paisley Underground, denne jangly indierocken som ble definert av andre samtidige LA-band som The Rain Parade og The Dream Syndicate, på et semi-klassisk 80-tallsalbum som fremdeles er ganske morsomt å høre på, om enn noe ufullendt.

fus_america_240F.U.’s: My America
(X-Claim, 1983)

F.U.’s var en hardcore-bande fra Boston, som først gjorde seg bemerket utenfor byens grenser med sine bidrag på den definerende samleren This Is Boston, Not L.A. sammen med blant andre Gang Green og Jerrys Kids. Boston var en by med en brennhet scene i de dager, som også inkluderte SS Decontrol (SSD), Negative FX og DYS – en punk-by med klar politisk agenda, der Straight Edge og venstrepolitiske standpunkter stod sentralt. Velkommen til F.U.’s, som med sitt ultra-patriotiske epos My America både frydet og forvirret. Omslaget viser et mektig og erke-amerikansk landskap, baksiden viser bandet ved en pick-up i tømmerskjorter og jaktrifler, humrende med jakttrofeet liggende foran seg: To snauklipte skatere. En annen versjon viser General Patton poserende med det amerikanske flagget.

Tim Yohannan i Maximum Rocknroll, for mange en rettesnor for hva som var musikalsk og politisk korrekt, sablet ned bandet for sitt patriotiske budskap. Han hyllet musikken som ‘storms out detonating gusts of energetic exertion, wild euphoria flailing in rapid determination waiting to explode’, men tekstene ‘tread a fine line between obnoxious satire and mindless reaction’. Yohannan fastslo at ‘after conducting an interview with them in which they stated ‘America Rules’ in all seriousness, adding that immigrants entered the U.S. because they were ‘too dumb to run their own governments’, it’s all too apparent that theirs is a regressive mentality better suited to fraternity jocks than so-called punks.’

fus

De bevegde seg utvilsomt et eller annet sted langs satirens tynne line, ganske fjernt fra sine samtidige i Bostons hardcore-kretser, men My America er uansett 16 intense minutter, godt oppsummert av AllMusic som ‘caffeine-overdose tempos that nearly collapse on every track, ultracheap static buzz production, and cigarette-hoarse mob choruses.’

F.U.’s er for øvrig udødeliggjort av Dead Milkmen i deres smått legendariske harselas ”Tiny Town”: ’We hate blacks and we hate jews and we hate punks – but we love the F.U.’s.’

man_sized_action_claus_240Man Sized Action: Claustrophobia
(Reflex, 1983)

Bob Mould er selvsagt best kjent som frontmann i Hüsker Dü, Sugar og som soloartist. Mindre kjent er det kanskje at han sammen med de andre medlemmene i Hüsker Dü promoterte lokal hardcore og post-punk fra Minnesota og Midtvesten med plateselskapet Reflex.

Blant bandene som utga skiver på Reflex finner vi godsaker som Rifle Sport, Articles of Faith – og Man Sized Action. Claustrophobia er deres debutalbum, som også er produsert Bob Mould selv i klassisk syltynn post-punk ånd. Steve Albini intervjuet bandet for Matter fanzine i 1984, i forbindelse med deres oppfølgeralbum Five Storey Garage som i og for seg har både bedre låter og fetere produksjon enn debuten. Etter en lengre rant om klimaet og det dårlige været i Minnesota, beskriver Albini deres debutplate i ganske treffende ordelag:

The record was raw and thin, and lacked both the depth and the punch of MSA live, but the songs came through. Huge killer songs with balls as big as houses treading the water between Mekons/Fall-styled practiced amateurishness and Joy Division/Wire-styled controlled creepiness.

Etter Claustrophobia fikk bandet med seg Brian Paulson på gitar, mannen som etter hvert spilte med David Grubbs i Bastro og ble en høyt respektert lydtekniker og produsent, og senere har jobbet med Slint, Beck, Dinosaur Jr, Archers of Loaf og utallige andre.

Det var et stort pluss for Man Sized Action, for mannen kunne faktisk spille. I følge Albini: ”It’s different for MSA now. They can play. Like motherfuckers.”

Men flere plater kom aldri. Ta med deg begge, om du skal være så heldig å slumpe over dem.

dumptruckDumptruck: D Is For Dumptruck
(Incas, 1983)

Dumptruck er det kvintessensielle amerikanske collegerock-bandet, både i musikalsk stil og med sin uheldige erfaring med musikkbransjen.

Med sin intellektuelle blanding av angstfull britisk post-punk, velfunderte vokalharmonier og gitar-jangly optimisme står Dumptruck i par med band som Guadalcanal Diary, The db’s, Game Theory og ikke minst R.E.M, tidlig i karrieren kan også Velvet, Television og The Feelies nevnes som retningspunkter. Men våre venner har urettferdig nok blitt glemt når historien om amerikansk undergrunnsrock skrives. Selv om de var kritikerroste college-darlings i sin tid.

Boston-bandet ga ut tre feiende flotter skiver på 80-tallet, debuten D Is for Dumptruck (1983), Positively Dumptruck (1986) og kraftig underkjente for the Country (1987). D Is for Dumptruck er deres mest uflidde langspiller, men med den uimotståelig naivistiske sjarmen som hører med til en slik egenutgitt produksjon av et band i den idealistiske tidlige fasen av sin karriere.

(”Back to Where I Belong” er åpningssporet fra Positively Dumptruck)

Bandets kjerne var de to habile låtskriverne Seth Tiven og Kirk Swan, begge fra Connecticut, som møttes i Boston tidlig på 1980-tallet. Etter en vellykket debut fikk de tilbud fra flere plateselskap, og slo til med australske Big Time. For den like godt mottatte oppfølgeren fikk de med seg sørstatenes jangle-pop masetro Don Dixon som produsent og satte ut på endeløse og selvutslettende turneer. Friksjonen langs landeveien splittet forholdet mellom Swan og Tiven, men sistnevnte aktet å fullføre avtalen med Big Time, stablet på beina et nytt orkester og dro til Wales for å spille inn sitt tredje album sammen med den drevne produsenten Hugh Jones (Echo & the Bunnymen, Teardrop Explodes, Icicle Works). Med eneansvar for låtene denne gangen, er for the Country deres mest helhetlige plate, der desillusjonert lyrikk møter blendende låter i et velfundert, folkbasert lydbilde. Et klassisk album som burde ført Dumptruck opp i elitedivisjonen.

Men her begynner de virkelige problemene i det som er en klassisk leksjon i indiemusikkens skyggeside.

Big Time var på vei til å gå dukken omtrent samtidig med at for the Country skulle lanseres. Dumptruck så lite til pengene som skulle dekke kostnadene for plateinnspillingen, ei heller ble den promotert eller mulig å finne i butikkene. De dro likevel ut på veien for å backe utgivelsen, utvilsomt i relativt lunkent humør, men i California så lykken endelig ut til å stå dem bi, da Phonogram Records meldte sin interesse og lokket med et sekssifret beløp. Kurt Hernon fra Perfect Sound Forever har beskrevet i detalj det som så skjedde:

While in Los Angeles, Tiven was called into the Big Time offices (he had recently learned of the Phonogram deal himself). It was explained to him that a small contractual ‘detail’ had been overlooked recently – Big Time had missed the date to pick up the option on Dumptruck – and that it would be simple, with Tiven’s help, to iron out this small misstep. Seth, seeing an opportunity to leave Big Time and move his band forward, said that he would have to ‘talk to the band’. More like, talk to his lawyer. Dumptruck’s lawyer confirmed for Tiven that Big Time’s «misstep» did indeed free the band from contractual obligation to the sinking label, and that they were free to pursue a relationship with Phonogram themselves. So they did.

Big Time looked foolish. Negotiating a deal with another label for a band that wasn’t even under contract is a bad business move, not to mention embarrassing as hell. And it is made even worse when your business is dying. But, Big Time decided it was not going to die alone. They would take Dumptruck with them. Big Time Records filed a frivolous breech of (non-existent) contract suit and sued Dumptruck for five million dollars. 5 Million dollars!

The lawsuit did what Big Time apparently wanted it to do: it gave Phonogram and other interested labels five million reasons to never speak to Dumptruck again. Drifting, Tiven and the band set out on the eternal tour. Three years of playing to pay legal bills, three years without recording, three years in which to slip out of the collective short-term memories of the public, and three years to wonder what the fuck they did to deserve this.

Eventually, the Big Time suit was dismissed after the labels’ lawyers failed to appear at any of three hearings. Furthermore, Dumptruck won control over their master recordings and received a two hundred fifty thousand-dollar judgement for damages. It sounded good, but, as is the Dumptruck luck, the band only saw about a thousand dollars of their winnings, and to top it off, RCA records put a lien on the Dumptruck master tapes for money owed them by the now defunct Big Time Records.

Having won nothing and lost nearly everything, Tiven and Dumptruck forged on with what was always most important – the music. It would be eight years until any new Dumptruck music saw the light of day.

Utrolig nok kom altså Seth Tiven seg gjennom dette, fant igjen tonen med Kirk Swan og vekket Dumptruck til live igjen. De spiller fremdeles på en liten klubb et stykke unna deg, og utga et par fine album på 90- og 00-tallet. Start med debuten, men sørg for å jobbe deg gjennom hele deres katalog. Det bør være en lystbetont oppgave, tross alt.

The Steppes: s/t
(Mystic, 1984)

Det er ikke altfor mye som er skrevet og sagt om dette bandet her. Kanskje like greit da, at de lar Melody Maker beskrive hva du kan vente på forsiden av coveret til det som er en aldeles fantastisk mini LP: ’David and John write songs that hit you hard, that hit them hard…. Think Weller, think of Dylan and Lennon… Fragments, jagged corners gelling into a suprisingly cohesive whole.’ John og David er brødrene Fallon, vokalister, låtskrivere og frontfigurer i kriminelt underkjente The Steppes.

The Steppes omtales gjerne som et irsk-amerikansk band, da familien Fallon kom fra Irland og bosatte seg i Chicago, og våre to brødre vokste opp både i statene og i England. Tidlig på 1980-tallet fant de veien til Los Angeles, og en spirende scene som lånte inspirasjon fra 60-tallsrock og psykedelia: Band som The Rain Parade, The Dream Syndicate, The Long Ryders og Tucson-bandet Green On Red tilhørte alle samme miljø, og var også en college-rock krets The Steppes også til en viss grad sirkulerte.

Brødrende Fallon startet først et band som kalte seg Blue Macs (og som omtalte sitat fra Melody Maker egentlig var myntet på), før de restrukturerte seg som The Steppes. Med åpenbar inspirasjon fra The Beatles, Stones, The Who, The Kinks, T-Rex, men også nyere band som The Jam og Undertones, fikk de deal med Mystic Records, den mytiske Hollywood-etiketten til Doug Moody som ble mest kjent for å gi oss punk og hardcore fra sør-California. Debuten la grunnlaget for en karriere som aldri skulle vekke veldig stor oppmerksomhet, men som har en trofast kultskare – spesielt her i Europa. Bandet skulle på senere album, jeg er spesielt svak for Harps & Hammers fra 1990, dykke ned i mørkere psykedelia, men når jeg vil høre The Steppes er det låter som ”Kathy Maguire” og ”I Think I’ll Go” fra den selvtitulerte debuten jeg helst vender tilbake til.

For et band som i høy grad har vendt det musikalske blikket bakover i tid, og på en plate som har rukket å bikke 30 år, er det slående hvor tidløst sound The Steppes faktisk har – og hvor slitesterke låter brødrene Fallon trillet ut av ermet. Synd at ikke flere fikk øynene opp for dem den gang da.

fang_wild_things_240Fang: Where the Wild Things Are
(Boner, 1984)

Boner Records ga ut noen av de mest særegne platene med uttafor-rock på seint 80- og tidlig 90-tall, der svært mange fant veien til mine platehyller gjennom band som Melvins, Steel Pole Bath Tub, Fearless Iranians From Hell, Superconductor, Ed Hall og Warlock Pinchers. Mannen som grunnla herligheten i Berkely, California var Tom Flynn og han hadde en fortid i underkjente og urettferdig obskure Fang.

Fang var Bay Area punks som først gjorde seg bemerket i 1982 på den essensielle samleren Not So Quiet on the Western Front med ”Fun With Acid”. De fulgte opp året etter med EP’en Landshark, der låter som ”Skinheads Smoke Dope” og ”Destroy the Handicapped” satte standarden. Året etter kom Where the Wild Things Are som i hovedsak fulgte det samme sporet. Med sin søplete og skranglete punkrock var Fang talsmenn for et mer nihilistisk livssyn enn de fleste. ”Everybody Makes Me Barf” er en klassiker, og selv liberale Berkley fikk gjennomgå på låter som ”Berkeley Heathen Scum”. Fang på plate kan med dagens ører sikkert høres ganske spinkelt ut, men det er en ubehøvlet holdning og råtten energi som fremdeles skinner i disse støvete rillene.

Fang var ikke bare helt sentrale innen tidlig hardcore punk, men også en viktig innflytelse for en del rockeband lengre nord som sugde til seg innflytelse fra ulike subkulturer. Landshark ble senere kjent som et av Kurt Cobains favorittskiver, og både Nirvana og Mudhoney har senere covret Fangs mest kjente øyeblikk, ”The Money Will Roll Right In”. Et knurrende anthem med sympatiske tekstlinjer som:

I’m going to Hollywood, they’ll see that I’m so good
I won’t care how I feel, and I’ll get to fuck Brooke Shields
I’ll just sit and grin, the money will roll right in

fang

Et band som både Green Day og Metallica har løftet fram gjennom sine hyllester hadde fortjent en bedre skjebne enn å havne i glemselens dal. Landshark høres digitalt, og er også utgitt sammen med Where the Wild Things Are på CD for den som ikke gidder å bruke altfor mye penger på LP’ene.

Not so fun fact: Sam McBride levde ikke helt opp til låta ”Fun With Acid” da han kvelte kona etter en real heroinkule i 1989. 11 år bak lås og slå satte bandet naturlig nok en del tilbake, men utrolig nok blåste han nytt liv i Fang da han slapp ut igjen.

crucifucksThe Crucifucks: s/t
(Alternative Tentacles, 1984)

Lansing er kanskje hovedstaden i Michigan, men noen musikkhovedstad kan den ikke påberope seg å være. Igjen kan vi takke Black Flag og deres utrettelige turnévirksomhet for at ting begynte å skje. Det var i hvert på en av deres konserter i byen, i 1980, at Doc Corbin Dart, allerede 28 år på den tiden, møtte Scott Begerston og Steve Shelley (senere kjent fra Sonic Youth), som ble kjernen i The Crucifucks.

Sammen med sine likesinnede i The Meatmen, også de fra Lansing, ble Crucifucks kjent som et utagerende og konfronterende liveband rundt om i Michigan. Men virkelig fart i sakene ble det ikke før de møtte Jello Biafra og The Dead Kennedys et par år senere. Biafra tilbød bandet kontrakt på hans Alternative Tentacles, og den beintøffe og selvtitulerte debuten så dagens lys i 1984.

The Crucifucks hørtes ikke ut som noen andre i sin tid, og ingen har vel kopiert dem i ettertiden heller. Det skyldes selvsagt vokalist Doc Corbin Darts high pitch squeals i en slags frenetisk, helium-aktig desperasjon. Et annet sentralt aspekt med The Crucifucks, er deres nådeløse, intelligente og skarpe humoristiske angrep på øvrigheta.

Doc Corbin Dart og hans Crucifucks – ”the greatest threat to American democracy since communism” – la ikke mye mellom når det kom til styre og stell. En låt som ”Cops For Fertilizer” var ikke bare nedlatende mot ordensmakten, sedvanlig i punk-tradisjonen, men hadde følgende slagkraftige refreng:

So let’s kill the fucking pigs
If they get in our way.
It’ll set a good example
For the children today.
It’ll keep kids out of trouble
Shooting pigs after school.
Wasting cops will be the
Hero’s golden rule

En annen låt er ”Hinckley Has a Vision”, der mannen som forsøkte å drepe Ronald Reagan får full støtte:

I wanna take the president
Chop off his head
And mail it to them in a garbage bag

Åpningssporet bør også nevnes, klassikeren ”Democracy Spawns Bad Taste” og referenget:

Be a good American – fuck off!
Be a good American – go to war!
Be a good fearing citizen and kill someone OR
KILL YOURSELF

The Crucifucks fulgte opp med mer komplekse Wisconsin i 1987, også det en personlig favoritt. Når det gjelder Dart så utga han det hjerteskjærende soloalbumet Patricia i 1990, men jeg tror han etter hvert har mistet forstanden. Han har i hvert fall benektet fortiden, tatt avstand fra banning, unngår nyheter, tatt artistnavnet 26 og erklært at han er messias.

crucifucks_doc_corbin_dart

Fun fact: Grandonkelen til Doc Corbin Dart grunnla Dart Corporation, som er verdens største produsent av kaffelokk. Selv kommer han fra en lang linje av meget velstående bankmenn, med så kule navn at de bare må nevnes: Han er altså sønn av Rollin Dart og barnebarn av Doc Campbell Dart, og det er å anta at en gang unge lovende Doc Corbin var tiltenkt en plass som den neste i rekkefølgen – men at de planene for lengst er omrockert.

Vice har for øvrig et fantastisk hjemme-hos intervju med Doc Corbin Dart, publisert i 2008 og som anbefales på det varmeste. I likhet med hans plater.

agent_orange_240Agent Orange: This is the Voice
(Enigma, 1986)

Radio-DJ Rodney Bingenheimer er en levende institusjon i amerikansk rock, en slags flamboyant utgave av John Peel, også omtalt som The Mayor of Sunset Strip (eller ’the where’s Waldo of rock’), som i en mannsalder har spilt plater for KROQ i Los Angeles. Han var blant de første som spilte punk og new wave på amerikansk radio, og i 1980 stod han bak samleskiva Rodney on the Roq (på Posh Boy), med blant andre Adolescents, Circle Jerks, Black Flag – og Agent Orange.

Med signaturlåta ”Bloodstains” (den som The Offspring senere ble beskyldt for å plagiere med megahiten ”Come Out and Play”) og det påfølgende debutalbumet Living in Darkness (1981) markerte Agent Orange seg umiddelbart som en anomali i Californias punk-scene under ledelse av frontmann Mike Palm.

Det sørlige California og spesielt Orange County utenfor Los Angeles står i en helt spesiell posisjon som arnested for hardcore punk (Middle Class, Black Flag, Social Distortion) og ulike varianter av pop-punk (Descendents, NOFX. Bad Religion). Det er tydeligvis noe med perfekt klima, mye penger og konservativt suburbia som vekker motstandsfølelsen hos ungdom.

Men Agent Orange var allerede fra starten av litt vanskeligere å plassere enn sine samtidige, med en effektiv miks av hardcore, skatepunk, catchy pop-tunes, thrasha riff og elementer av psych og surf, og med Mike Palms karakteristisk tilbakeholdne vokalstil ikke ulikt Greg Graffin (Bad Religion) eller til og med Mike Muir (Suicidal Tendencies) på sitt mest melodiøse, som naturlig midpunkt.

agentorange

Deres debutalbum er en klassiker, men jeg vil trekke fram den litt underkjente oppfølgeren, This Is the Voice fra 1986. Det tok noen år, og Agent Orange hadde i løpet av tiden fjernet seg et godt stykke fra den opprinnelige punk-estetikken, der bandets potente energi heller støter mot en mer gloomy & doomy stil av goth-mod, mer introvert og psycha, og der fraværet av en mer dynamisk produksjon nesten sparker beina unna de sterke låtene. Men bare nesten.

The Windbreakers: Run
(DB Records, 1986)

“Think of them as a genteel Replacements with 12-string guitar, or an R.E.M with clear melodies and lyrics.” (Los Angeles Herald Examiner)

På midten av 80-tallet flommet det over av nye band med blikket vendt mot 60-tallets liflige gitarklanger, flerstemte koring, lettere psykedeliske overtoner og artister som The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, Flamin’ Groovies og Big Star som rettesnor. Mange av disse collegerock-pionerene hadde base i musikkbyer som Athens, Georgia (R.E.M.), Austin (The Reivers) eller Los Angeles (The Rain Parade, The Long Ryders).

The Windbreakers derimot kom fra Jackson, Mississippi og var sentrert rundt duoen Tim Lee og Bobby Sutliff. Med den glitrende albumdebuten Terminal (1985) fikk de bistand fra jangle-pop pionerene Mitch Easter, kjent fra Let’s Active og ikke minst som produsent for R.E.M., og Don Dixon (R.E.M, Guadalcanal Diary, Dumptruck og en drøss andre) som bidro til å befeste deres posisjon som kvalitetsleverandør av sørstatslydende powerpop.

Den enkleste måten å bli kjent med The Windbreakers på er den fine samleren Time Machine som gir et representativ sveip over årene 1982-2002, med hovedvekt på 80-tallet. Terminal, Run og A Different Sort (1987) er jevnbyrdige i kvalitet, fra et band som tilsynelatende kunne trille gems ut av ermet hvilken som helst dag i uken. The Windbreakers stod ikke tilbake for noen av bandene i sin tid, der mange gikk videre til fame & fortune, men som deres britiske label Zippo en gang sa om Run: ”Again the U.S press reaction has been distinctly favorable, and also again, the response here has been minimal”. Bandet har eller aldri fått noen revival i ettertid så vidt meg bekjent, og det er en sterkt ufortjent skjebne.

Scratch Acid: s/t
(Rabid Cat, 1986)

Texas har opp gjennom årene fostret mange musikalske outsidere; Roky Erickson & 13th Floor Elevators, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Daniel Johnston og Jandek er bare noen eksempler på Texas-artister som definitivt ikke svømte medstrøms. Statens konservative politiske og kulturelle rammer gir tydeligvis grobunn for ekstreme motreaksjoner, og i punkens dager kom band som Big Boys og Dicks som herlige normbrytere. I kjølevannet av disse, finner vi selvsagt San Antonios store helter Butthole Surfers, Fearless Iranians From Hell, Hickoids – og mange andre.

Austin har bestandig vært en kulturell oase i Texas, og en by der det å være annerledes ikke bare blir anerkjent men er noe som byen framhever som sin styrke. Et av de tidlige plateselskapene innen American Underground er Austins Rabid Cat, som ga oss flotte band som Offenders, Texas Instruments, Happy World – og ikke minst Scratch Acid.

Scratch Acid tok form tidlig på 1980-tallet, og er nok best kjent for at to av medlemmene, David Yow og David Wm. Sims, senere formet innflytelsesrike og mer kjente The Jesus Lizard (de to andre medlemmene var Brett Bradford og trommis Rey Washam fra Big Boys – Washam og Sims ble for øvrig også med i Steve Albinis kortlevde prosjekt Rapeman). Bandene deler mye av det samme musikalske uttrykket; down & out søplete og støyende bluespunk, ikke så helt ulikt The Cramps eller det Nick Cave holdt på med i The Birthday Party og i sin tidlige solokarriere. Låter som ”Cannibal”, ”Monsters” og ”Greatest Gift” er manisk panikkrock fra et mentalt grenseland. Scratch Acid må også nevnes som et viktig band for Seattle-rocken, med både Kurt Cobain og Soundgarden blant fanskaren.

Og hva er ’the greatest gift of all’? La oss like gjerne gjengi hele teksten som egentlig forklarer musikken bedre enn noe annet:

Garden of buried pleasures
Neatly in a row
Are planted life’s true secrets
In a world yet still unknown

Six feet deep down dark
Free from concern
The greatest gift
From life itself
Lies the food for the worms

Lystig gjeng!

Moving Targets:
Burning In Water (Taang!, 1986)

Boston-området har en rik musikkhistorie litt i skyggen av sin storebrorby noe lenger sør. På 80-tallet vokste det fram en sterk hardcore-scene her med band som SS Decontrol, Jerry’s Kids, Gang Green og The F.U.’s blant de mest førende [se F.U.’s: My America litt lenger opp]. Men byen fostret også band som tok med seg mye av denne energien over i et mer melodisk og mer ‘alternativt’ landskap, som Mission of Burma, The Lemonheads, Buffalo Tom, Volcano Suns, Dinosaur Jr, Bullet LaVolta – og Moving Targets.

Dannet i North Shore-området utenfor Boston tidlig på 1980-tallet, og med Ken Chambers som mest sentrale medlem, er Moving Targets et skrekkelig oversett band som i årene 1986-1993 ga ut fire veldig bra album. Debuten Burning In Water står seg fremdeles som en post-punk-påle. Moving Targets hadde røtter i hardcore punk, men hadde utviklet et åpenbart musikalsk slektskap til både Mission of Burman og Hüsker Dü, som på dette tidspunktet førte an og viste nye veier ut av hardcorens begrensninger (Zen Arcade var nylig sluppet, New Day Rising kom omtrent samtidig som denne). Moving Targets delte dette vidsynet, der gnistrende låtskriving og et ustoppelig driv danner et bunnsolid fundament og som like uanstrengt lente seg mot jangly folkrock (á la R.E.M) som luftig Californisk pop-punk og harDCore.

Jeg googlet omtalen på All Music Guide mens jeg hørte gjennom skiva på nytt, og den var særdeles velskrevet og grundig, og faktisk forfattet av ingen ringere enn Bill Janovitz fra Buffalo Tom. Han skriver blant annet: ”This trio was their best lineup, a magic version of the band. Every song here is an anthem, and perhaps that could be listed as a fault for some folks. Even as the tone of the album moves to a darker minor-key tone, approaching drone and dissonance at times, the songs feature martial snare rolls, and pummeling, fat AC/DC-like guitar chords and, above all, melody. The material is well-arranged, with little filler; while some songs feature a multitude of often intricate sections (intro, verse, chorus, bridge, outro, and so on), none reach the four-minute mark – a discipline gleaned from the lean, fast rules approach of hardcore.”

Burning in Water er fri for dødpunkter, den har ingen holdbarhetsdato, og den har ikke mistet en tøddel av energien som den en gang ble skapt av.

No Trend: Tritonian Nash-Vegas Polyester Complex
(Touch & Go, 1986)

I en grundig og velskrevet gjennomgang av historien til No Trend i Vinyl District i 2013 skriver Michael H. Little: «If you were a fan of the previous No Trend album, it was virtually guaranteed that you would listen to the new one and say, “What is this shit?” Over the course of its career No Trend mutated from an industrial hardcore band that specialized in pissing people off to an absurdist band with no apparent genre boundaries that specialized in, well, pissing people off. It almost seemed as if No Trend was primarily in the No Trend fan elimination business.»

No Trend ble dannet tidlig på 80-tallet i Ashton, Maryland, en forstad mellom Baltimore og DC, med Jeff Mentges og nå avdøde Frank Price i ledende roller. I løpet av en periode på seks år omformet de konstant sitt musikalske uttrykk basert på en felles misnøye mot musikalsk snversyn og ikke minst punkens konforme utvikling, rettet mot både straight edge eller en stadig raskere og mer teknisk orientert form for hardcore. Eller for å si det med Steven Blush i boken American Hardcore: ’They hated everyone and everything’. No Trend mikset sammen en kakofonisk cocktail av thrash-jazz, lounge-metal og countryfunk som lå langt nærmere absurd kunstrock og dadaisme enn sjangertro hardcore.

I nevnte intervju med The Vinyl District sier gitarist Buck Parr: ”The band started off doing something different, it alienated some people, and the band embraced that. As the band developed, it mutated in ways that further confused people. Instead of being apologetic, I think the band generally fed off of this. It was within the band’s DNA to be somewhat contrary.”

Med sin konfronterende stil etterlatte de seg en forvirret floke av fans og et plateselskap som til slutt nektet å følge deres stadig mer kompliserte uttrykk. King Koffey i Butthole Surfers: ”Bands like No Trend, Flipper and ourselves were part of a reaction to Hardcore bands, we were all reacting against how limited it was defining itself. We all though it was so silly how everyone was playing faster and faster. It got so fucking stupid.”

No Trend var langt fra noen idioter. Tvert imot, de var en evig muterende organisme som fulgte sin egen vei. En vei som førte dem til steder der ingen andre har passert verken før eller siden. Slike band finnes bare ikke lengre.

For ytterligere dypdykk kan disse to intervjuene varmt anbefales:
No Trend Didn’t Just Go Against the Grain, They Shoved It in the Faces of the Pretentious Hardcore Fans
No Trend (Yellow Green Red)

Squirrel Bait: Skag Heaven
(Homestead, 1986)

Pre-postrock og før Slint, matterocken og alt som skulle skje senere, satt Squirrel Bait hjemme i Louisville, Kentucky og tegnet opp et kart som svært mange skulle følge og ytterligere utvikle. Selv om de ikke er spesielt godt husket i dag, kan deres innflytelse vanskelig overvurderes innen utviklingen av den alternative rocken utover på 1990-tallet.

Squirrel Bait var en gjeng tenåringer fremdeles på high school som nok kjennes best for sine mer profilerte prosjekter senere i karrieren: David Grubbs (Slint, Bastro, Gastr del Sol), Brian McMahan (Slint, the For Carnation), Britt Walford (Slint, King Kong) for å nevne bare deler av bandets senere tentakler.

Slint er kjent som post-rock-pionerer med briljante Spiderland fra 1991, et landemerke innen alternativ rock. The Guardian: ”In fact, although it sold fewer than 5,000 copies at the time, Spiderland did become a landmark, one that invented an entire genre – post-rock. Generations have grown up in awe of its shifting landscapes, sinister narratives and intangible, dark power, and Slint have become modern rock’s Velvet Underground: a band who created a ripple that kept spreading, influencing bands from Mogwai to Sigur Rós.”

Men før dette, var det altså Squirrel Bait. Mindre komplekse og mer punka i tilnærmingen, og i følge deres Wikipedia-side kan de regnes som forløpere for grunge, math rock og emocore. Ikke verst bare det! Men fakta er at urettferdig glemte Squirrel Bait så naturlig og uanstrengt som bare ungdommen evner, kombinerte smart pop-sensibilitet med støyende, rask og rastløs punk. De burde dermed hatt sin plass på øverste hylle sammen med The Replacements, The Lemonheads eller Hüsker Dü (Evan Dando og Bob Mould skal begge ha vært fans), men slik gikk det ikke. Andreutgivelsen Skag Heaven er en forbigått 80-tallsklassiker, både en svanesang, idet medlemmene forsvant til college, men også en katalysator for det som senere skulle komme.

For videre fordypning kan dette essayet av Sean Koepenick anbefales:
Chew on This: The Squirrel Bait Story

Fearless Iranians From Hell: Die For Allah
(Boner, 1987)

Americans, as a whole, have an underdeveloped sense of irony.
(Omid, Fearless Iranians From Hell, 2009)

Denne gjengen kom fra samme nabolag som fostret San Antonios stolte sønner Butthole Surfers, og de delte ikke bare litt på medlemmene men også sansen for provokativ oppførsel og svart humor. FIFH var ikke fullt så musikalsk nysgjerrige som de syrebefengte Buttholes, og holdt seg nærmere ganske tradisjonell hardcore punk. Men kombinasjonen hardcore, dypeste Texas i Reagan-tiden med politisk satire som latterliggjorde amerikansk eksepsjonalisme ved å ta side med radikal islam, Ayatollah Khomeini og jihad ga ikke store rom for kommersiell suksess. Men medlemmene var selvsagt smartere enn folkene de oppildnet. FIFH omga seg i et slør av mystikk, de forholdt seg anonyme, spilte med Finlandshetter i god terrorist-stil, gjorde aldri intervjuer og siden de fleste visstnok har blitt gode samfunnsborgere siden den gang, er dette noe de har holdt på siden. Men gjennom noen få intervjuer i ettertid har det blitt kastet litt mer lys over bandet. Tekstforfatter og sentralt medlem Omid sier til Death Metal Underground i 2009 at bandet aldri hadde en politisk agenda, men en felles kreativ agenda.

The more intelligent people figured out it was political satire, and that what we were doing was ridiculously over-the-top. But we were banking on the more thick-headed ones getting it wrong, being offended, thus drawing more attention to the band. We were attacked by police, protesters, skinheads, right-wing radio hosts, left-wing college boy bands who were too caught up in their seriousness to get what we were doing, gangs, religious organizations, promoters…hell, Fearless Iranians From Hell album covers were even featured in PTA slide-shows portraying the evils of rock ‘n’ roll. Mission accomplished.

Etter den thrasha debuten fulgte bandet opp med hakket hvassere og mer varierte Holy War året etter, før de krysset mer over mot metallen med sitt tredje album Foolish Americans i 1990. Alle anbefales, men start gjerne med den første.

Fun fact: Det sies at den første vokalisten til bandet, Amir, faktisk var fra Iran, og havnet i Texas etter sjahens fall i 1979. Medlemmene hadde for øvrig i hovedsak fra et annet punk-band i San Antonio, The Marching Plague. Vokalisten der opptrådde som Anus Presley på Butthole Surfers klassiske låt ’The Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey’s Grave’. Texas Revolutionaries!

U-Men: Step On a Bug
(Black Label, 1988)

Denne skiva fant jeg til min store glede på et fortausalg på Neseblod for noen år siden, henslengt i en bruskasse for en billig penge. Den er ikke supersjelden, men heller ikke en plate man snubler over støtt eller stadig. Og det er ikke så rart. Dette er U-Mens eneste LP, og det er i det store og hele en ganske glemt plate – og et glemt band – for de som ikke er i overkant opptatt av Seattle-rockens historie, that is.

For U-Men er nemlig et helt sentralt band innen utviklingen av nordvest-rocken på 1980-tallet, og det som ganske snart skulle bli kjent som grunge. Seattle-regionen har en lang og rik musikkhistorie, spesielt som base for mye grom garasjerock på 60-tallet (Sonics, Wailers, Kingsmen). Etter noen litt døde år, der Heart og metalband som Queensrÿche, Metal Church og the Accüsed stakk seg mest ut, begynte en ny generasjon å røre på seg utover midten av 1980-tallet. The Wipers, Silly Killers og U-Men var blant disse pionerbandene, som ganske snart skulle få følge av flere. En av de tidligste dokumentasjonene på at noe nytt var i gjære finner vi på den fine samleren Deep Six fra 1986, utgitt på C/Z og bestående av blant andre Green River, Malfunkshun, Soundgarden, Skin Yard og U-Men. Av disse var sistnevnte de mest drevne allerede da, og minnet mer om at de ikke var alene i byen når det kom til å lage tung, vrang og søplete rock.

Det er et helt åpenbart slektskap med Step On a Bug og det soundet som Nirvana, Soundgarden og TAD senere skulle gjøre mer strømlinjeformet, mens U-Men har etter musiskalsk slektskap til band som The Birthday Party, Scratch Acid og Butthole Surfers, slik de alternerer mellom det paniske og brutale, et sted mellom støyrock, punk og sludge. Det er i første rekke en aura av uskyld over U-Men, selv om de bader i syndens pøl, i form av noe uferdig og prøvende, en leken tilnærming som bare to-tre år senere var kommersialisert, ferdigpakket og stemplet grunge.

Fun fact: Medlemmene ble senere å finne i finfine band som Gas Huffer og Love Battery, og ikke minst Tom Hazelmyer som senere gikk hen å grunnla det aldeles latterlig bra plateselskapet Amphetamin Reptile Records i Minneapolis (og bandet Halo of Flies). The Butthole Surfers parodierte vokalist John Bigley med sin egen låt ”The O-Men” (på Locust Abortion Technician), som igjen ble knabbet av Oslo-bandet The O-Men tidlig på 90-tallet, hvis medlemmer ble å finne i mer profilerte band som Gluecifer, Euroboys, Astroburger og Black Debbath.

Så da var det kanskje på sin plass da, at jeg fant U-Men i en bruskasse på et fortau på Oslos østkant.

The Frogs: It’s Only Right and Natural
(Homestead, 1988)

Milwaukee-bandet The Frogs’ hjemmelagde og dels improviserte innspillinger med satiriske homolåter var aldri tiltenkt et større marked. Men det var nettopp disse opptakene, der de skrullet rundt på kjøkkenet hjemme, Homestead Records ville utgi akkurat som de var.  Låter som ”Men (Come on Men)”, ”Dykes Are We” og ”Been a Month Since I Had a Man” dekker mye av innholdet på en plate som balanserer mellom infantil humor og øyeblikk av skarpskodd vidd. Deres omgang med vulgariteter og tabuer ertet på seg den kristne høyresiden og skapte kontroverser i mange kretser: Var de homser eller homofober, drev de med samfunnssatire eller var det bare, vel, kødd.

Homestead slang seg på og proklamerte at The Frogs var ledere i en ’new gay supremacy movement’. Mer beslektet med Ween enn Turboneger i deres denimperiode, It’s Only Right and Natural er ikke så mye å bli hverken provosert over eller ekstremt bergtatt av i dag, men på sitt beste er dette skeiv (pun intented) og catchy pop, tidvis småsur og surrete lo-fi- men det ligger jo så visst en slags sjarme også der.

Brødrene Flemion, Jimmy og Dennis, ble senere kompiser med blant andre Smashing Pumpkins og Pearl Jam, Kurt Cobain var fan og Beck har samplet fra skiva deres. Jeg har ikke hørt deres andre utgivelser p.t., men It’s Only Right And Natural er ikke bare en personlig favoritt men også en plate som med årene har fått stadig større kultstempel, og i 2011 inviterte Animal Collective, som da kuraterte det årets All Tomorrow’s Parties festival, bandet over for å framføre skiva i sin helhet.

En plate som åpner med linjene ’I’ve got drugs that’ll blow your mind tonight’ kan da heller ikke trå særlig feil.

Honor Role: Rictus
(Homestead, 1989)

Honor Role leverte fra seg sitt grovt forbigåtte mesterstykke Rictus før de gikk hver til sitt ved inngangen til 1990-årene. Kvartetten ble dannet i Richmond, Virginia i 1983 og hentet i utgangspunktet inspirasjon fra rådende tendenser innen hardcore punk, hvis skjematiske grenser de raskt sprengte og utviklet mot noe helt annet.

Rictus er dominert av en tight rytmeseksjon, sagende gitarer, komplekse melodistrukturer, og en autoritær snakkesyngende vokalist i Bob Schick som la grunnlaget for låter som i overraskende liten grad høres datert ut etter nærmere 30 år. Deres form for dystopisk post-punk (tenk The Birthday Party, The Fall) og mørk indierock (Big Black, Squirrel Bait) er også et åpenbart frampek mot post-rocken som Slint skulle gjøre seg så bemerket for bare et par år senere, men Honor Role kan også høres som et protoband innen emo/math rock og harDCore (Fugazi, Drive Like Jehu). Den usle plassen de er tildelt langs glemselens bord burde vært mer prominent i kraft av deres innflytelse og måten de viste vei fra det formelbaserte mot det visjonære.

Gitarist Pen Rollings ble senere aktiv i Butterglove og mer kjente Breadwinner, og Seth Harris joinet Kepone (deres Ugly Dance fra 1994 skal få være med i den kommende oppfølgerserien om 90-tallet).

Toppalbum 1955-2000

Hvis man nå absolutt måtte tilbringe resten av livet på en øde øy, med strøm og platespiller vel og merke, og fikk mulighet til å ta med seg kun ÉN plate fra hvert år, hvilke skulle man tatt med seg? Denne høyst reelle utfordringen avstedkom etter noe tankevirksomhet følgende liste. Den gir, om ikke en perfekt avspeiling over favorittskivene, en ganske representativ oversikt med vei som ikke overraskende går fra jazz via syrerock og punk til undergrunnsrock og post-rock. En riktig så fin reise ble det faktisk, så da er det bare å pakke kofferten.

Utvalget er  for øvrig avgrenset til kun én plate pr. artist.

1955 Frank Sinatra – In the Wee Small Hours
1956 Sonny Rollins – Saxophone Colossus
1957 Art Pepper – Art Pepper Meets the Rhythm Section
1958 Cannonball Adderly – Somethin’ Else
1959 John Fahey – Blind Joe Death

1960 Ornette Coleman – Free Jazz
1961 Thelonious Monk – Thelonius Monk With John Coltrane
1962 Bill Evans – Waltz For Debby
1963 Charles Mingus – The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady
1964 Lee Morgan – The Sidewinder
1965 John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
1966 The Beatles – Revolver
1967 The Velvet Undergroud & Nico – s/t
1968 The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland
1969 Miles Davis – In a Silent Way

1970 Soft Machine – Third
1971 Black Sabbath – Masters of Reality
1972 Nick Drake – Pink Moon
1973 Can – Future Days
1974 Neil Young – On the Beach
1975 Brian Eno – Another Green World
1976 Warren Zevon – s/t
1977 Television – Marquee Moon
1978 Blondie – Parallel Lines
1979 The Clash – London Calling

1980 The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms
1981 Wipers – Youth of America
1982 The Dream Syndicate – Days of Wine and Roses
1983 R.E.M – Murmur
1984 Minutemen – Double Nickels on the Dime
1985 Giant Sand – Valley of Rain
1986 Slayer – Reign in Blood
1987 Dinosaur Jr. – You’re Living All Over Me
1988 Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
1989 Pixies – Doolittle

1990 Fugazi – Repeater
1991 Slint – Spiderland
1992 Angelo Badalamenti – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
1993 Beastie Boys – Ill Communication
1994 Motorpsycho – Timothy’s Monster
1995 The God Machine – One Last Laugh in the Place of Dying
1996 Tortoise – Millions Now Living Will Never Die
1997 Built to Spill – Perfect From Now On
1998 Karate – The Bed Is in the Ocean
1999 Bonnie Prince Billy – I See a Darkness
2000 Songs: Ohia – Ghost Tropic

How Did They Find Themselves Here? The Dream Syndicate: Album by Album

Stikkord

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In the late 1970s Los Angeles was a key hub for punk rock and hardcore music, spawning crucial bands like Black Flag, Germs and Circle Jerks. At the turn of the decade, just as that boom started to fade, a new generation rolled into town keeping the untamed punk spirit alive while reverberating echoes of the pre-punk era.

Eighties Los Angeles became a hotbed for pioneering alternative rock acts, leaning equally towards country and folk, in the form of cowpunk, and psychedelia, manifesting a scene known as the Paisley Underground. Man, it must have been a thrilling place! Standout bands like The Gun Club, X, Green On Red, The Rain Parade, The Long Ryders and True West are just some of the acts that planted cactus roots in the land of palms. But none were more thrilling or vital than The Dream Syndicate.

Even though they belonged to the same scene as the ones mentioned above, The Dream Syndicate didn’t sound like anyone else at the time. Originally based around Steve Wynn (guitar, vocals), Karl Precoda (guitar) Kendra Smith (bass) and Dennis Duck (drums), Syndicate was all about loud guitars and a boundless approach, creating a musical habitat equally leaning on the harrowing echoes of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, the intricate guitar work of Television, the drone soundscapes of The Velvet Underground and the improvisational elements of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler.

The band cemented their legacy early on the seminal 1982 debut, The Days of Wine and Roses, a hands-down masterpiece that exhibits everything they were capable of. Although loud, psychedelic guitar rock was not the hippest of sounds in the ’80s, but it resonated surprisingly well for a subculture that later became known as college rock, which The Dream Syndicate pioneered along with the likes of their close friends in R.E.M, Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.

In 1983 The Dream Syndicate secured an opening slot for U2 on their U.S. tour, and the newfound national spotlight landed them a contract with A&M Records. Along with the record deal came a budget that allowed them to hire Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult, The Clash) as producer, resulting in their much more expansive sophomore album, The Medicine Show (1984).

Being dropped from the majors due to disappointing album sales, on top of internal struggles and various line-up changes didn’t prevent two more albums to follow. After a temporary retirement, which allowed Steve Wynn and compadre Dan Stuart of Green On Red to join forces as the drunken barroom outfit Danny & Dusty, Syndicate returned with newfound energy on 1986′s Out of The Grey. Following yet another pause, they crafted the dark and dense album, Ghost Stories, produced by Elliot Mazer of Neil Young fame.

In just six years time, The Dream Syndicate had forged a unique and distinctive four-album catalog that earns them a place among the seminal guitar bands of the 1980s. They capped off the decade with Live at Raji’s, an ecstatic live album that fully captured their energetic shows, without any technical bonds and a statement most bands can dream of.

As the ’80s turned to the ’90s, the Dream Syndicate was put to rest. Steve Wynn continued on as the far most profiled artist, under his own name and in bands like Gutterball and The Baseball Project, while other members drifted in different directions. Their music maintained a strong cult following no one really expected their return.

Then, in 2012, The Dream Syndicate miraculously reunited for a Spanish music festival. Made up of Wynn, Mark Walton (bass), Dennis Duck on drums and newcomer Jason Victor on guitar, the magic was still there. The band has since played over 50 shows and toured throughout the U.S. and Europe.

In 2016 they headed into the studio to begin work on their first album in 29 years. Released on September 8 by Anti- Records, How Did I Find Myself Here? is a triumphant return for a band that never lost its spark.

We invited Steve Wynn for a look in the back mirror and guide us through their catalog while we anticipate their new album.

* * *

The Dream Syndicate: Album by Album
By Steve Wynn

The Days of Wine and Roses
(Ruby, 1982)

Where it all began – to be specific, during three consecutive midnight to 8 a.m. sessions at Quad Tech Studios in East Hollywood in September of 1982.

We tracked all of the songs on the first night. And I sang them and did a few guitar bits and pieces the second night. We mixed the whole thing on the third and we all went to our day jobs in between.

I worked as a clerk at Rhino Records so it’s not like it was the most demanding job in the world. But I do remember going in and opening the store after we finished with a cassette of the mixes in my hand.

I played it to an empty store and knew that we had done something special, that we had made an album that lived up to our loftiest ambitions and intentions

Medicine Show
(A&M, 1984)

The first record took three days. This one took five months, working almost every day during those five months, usually about 12 hours a day.

On the same 8 songs. Yes, it’s almost impossible to believe.

Chock it up to the times, the ’80s became the Era of The Producer, a time when newfound technology and those at the helm felt that they were there for much more than the mere task of capturing art.

Chock it up to the actual producer we had chosen, Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult, The Clash), who I later found out was notorious for going way over a deadline and most certainly over budget.

Chock it up to our ambition to make something deeper, bigger and most intense than our first.

Whatever, they were very different records but they fit together in my mind and this one is quite often my favorite. It creates its own world and I really feel like there’s no other record quite like it. Oh, and some of my favorite songs that I’ve ever written.

Out of the Grey
(Big Time, 1986)

The band broke up in December. Karl and I weren’t talking. It had stopped being fun. And the newfound excesses – of chemicals, alcohol, experience, ego, fame – didn’t work in our favor.

So, that was it.

At least that was it until Mark and Dennis and I realized that we liked playing together and we invited Paul B. Cutler (45 Grave and, the producer of our first EP) to join us.

It worked. It was a blast. It was fun.

And the giddiness of everything being fun again comes through on this record, the title track being the taste of rising up, phoenix-like, from the ashes.

It’s upbeat, breezy, things not normally associated with our band.

Ghost Stories
(Enigma, 1988)

By this time Mark and Paul and Dennis and I had spent a lot of time on the road, and you can hear it on this record. I think that in some ways we put it all together on this one.

It’s dark, it’s noisy, it’s bratty but it’s also quite self-assured and not undone by production – neither too little nor too much.

It’s just us.

Credit must be given to producer Elliot Mazer (responsible for Neil Young’s Harvest, for one) who went for a live immediacy and transparent, rocking sound. It doesn’t sound dated. It sounds like us and, although we didn’t know it at the time, it was a good way to go out.

Oh, and much of it features Chris Cacavas, who had become a fifth member and still is to this day.

Live At Raji’s
(Enigma, 1989)

Paul’s guitar was stolen and we were all broke and most definitely uninsured. So we played a gig at our favorite local Hollywood hangout, Raji’s, to make enough to buy him a new one. And what the hell, we thought, let’s record it as well.

Elliot was around and had the idea to record the show direct to DAT (remember DAT, kids?). He was upstairs with his gear and recorder while we rocked out in the basement.

Man, we were ON that night – no jitters or worries about being recorded. We let it all fly. You hear this record and you hear what we did night after night on stages around the world.

When the show was done, so was the record. Performed and recorded and fully mixed all at the same time.

Some people say it’s our best record. Who am I to argue?

How Did I Find Myself Here
(Anti-, 2017)

A 29-year gap between our fourth and fifth albums. Who does that? Has there ever been a longer gap between albums in a band’s history. I don’t know. But this feels both like a continuation of our saga and something altogether brand new.

We neither wanted to ignore our past nor slavishly reproduce it.

And then we went into the studio and didn’t think about any of that. We just played.

Five days of playing in Richmond, Virginia at Montrose Studios, aided and abetted by our new guitarist Jason Victor (who had played in my solo band, the Miracle 3, since 2001). We knew from the start that it was going well and we just kept going and followed the music where it wanted to take us.

It took us someplace very special.

And that’s how we found ourselves here.

See you on the road.

– Steve Wynn, September 2017

Bjørn Hammershaug

Soundrack to Our Lives: Kacy & Clayton

Stikkord

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The Siren’s Song is the freshly released, Jeff Tweedy-produced fourth album from Saskatchewan folk duo of cousins Kacy Anderson & Clayton Linthicum.

Following their highly acclaimed 2016 New West debut Strange Country, Kacy & Clayton tap even deeper into the bottomless well of folk and country influences from North America and the British Isles. While carefully reaping centuries of rural traditions, the duo blossoms into something modern and timeless built on equal parts intricate guitars and angelic vocal harmonies.

The Washington Post just named The Siren’s Song the front-runner as the year’s best album in the Canadian-British-Americana country-folk category, and we highly encourage you to give it a listen.

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Congratulations on your new album! How would you best describe it?

Thank you! This is the first record of material we’ve made that can be performed at rodeo dances if need be.

How do you view The Siren’s Song compared to your debut album, Strange Country?

On our first three albums, we wanted to take these regional folk traditions — Anglo-American balladry, Piedmont blues, sea shanties, Cajun music, etc. — and write music that could be mistaken for traditional songs.

With The Siren’s Song, we attempted to make an album that synthesized the influences of our previous records with the production and writing style found on country records circa 1965 and the groove of South Western garage rock groups like the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Bobby Fuller Four.

How has the response been so far?

So far, so good! It’s been getting quite a lot of public radio and media attention here in Canada. My dad recently recited an entire song from the album to a group of his friends, so I consider that a success.

How did you celebrate the album release?

With a big bag of Miss Vicki’s kettle chips and a pint of cider.

Awesome! What is your next move going forward?

We’ve got tour dates planned for most of the fall that will take us through parts of Canada and the US, and also plan to tour the UK and Europe in the new year.

Soundtrack to My Life: Kacy & Clayton

Clayton’s Picks

Favorite song to listen to in the car?
“Poor Moon”: Canned Heat

The galloping high-hat and pulsating guitar vibrato on “Poor Moon” really propels my Honda CR-V and me down the road.

A song you like to sing in the shower?
“Bright Phoebus”: Mike and Lal Waterson

Here’s to Domino Records for reissuing this 45-year-old masterpiece and here’s to the Watersons and the community that surrounded them and played on this record.

A song that always brings a tear to your eye?
“Silver Coin”: Bridget St. John

Bridget St. John’s version was my introduction to this song, written by Terry Hiscock(Hunter Muskett). The chord progression and Gordon Huntley’s steel guitar part cause me to feel a pile of feelings.

Best new song you recently discovered?
“Night Wander”: Steve Gunn

When we finished making our new album in Chicago this past January, we had plans to go see Steve Gunn at Thalia Hall. Unfortunately, the spring rolls we ordered at a Vietnamese restaurant took much too long to prepare and we missed the show. Not to be denied, our drummer Mike Silverman and I watched a bunch of his KEXP sessions in our rental apartment, which is how I discovered this song.

Best song you’ve ever experienced live?
“Autumn Leaves”: Bob Dylan

When I saw Bob in Edmonton, Alberta in July, he ended the show with this song. He played a bunch of the standards he’s recorded on the past few albums that night but this was the most striking. The bowed bass and steel guitar and vocal performances were out of this world.

A song you wish you’d written?
“The Homecoming”: Tom T. Hall

This song perfectly communicates such a complete scene and conversation between a son who has lost contact with his rural roots, and his aging father on the farm.

Best song for going out on the town?
“Roll ‘Em Pete”: Pete Johnson

Big Joe Turner sings this jump blues with Pete Johnson on piano. I first found out about this record when I heard Bob Dylan borrowed from it’s intro for his song, “Summer Days” (from Love & Theft).

A song that inspired you?
“Refractions”: Bobbie Gentry

Bobbie Gentry’s records are among the most interesting and least categorizable of ’60s pop music. This song comes right out of the middle of a 5-song suite that makes up the B-side of her Delta Sweete LP. The range in melody and depth of this arrangement inspire me every time I hear it.

Best song to listen to while on tour?
“Give Me Forty Acres”: The Willis Brothers

Saskatoon legend Shakey Wilson turned me on to this truck driving anthem and it often plays in my mind while trying to navigate and park a pickup/U-haul trailer in the cities of America.

Kacy’s Picks

Favorite song that you’ve written or performed on?
“Honk If You Like Herefords”: Wolf Willow

This is one of the greatest agricultural songs ever written according to me. It was a privilege to sing this Etienne Soulodre song with these Saskatchewan sweethearts.

Best song to listen to while on tour?
“Wishing All These Things Were New”: Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard always has the best song to listen to at any point in time.

A song that represents your childhood?
“Tall Tall Trees”: Roger Miller

One thing kids and dads can bond on is Roger Miller. This was a favourite track to listen to in my dad’s truck.

Best song for when you’re head over heels in love?
“Do You Wanna Dance”: Ramones

I think that this is a universal hit for universal lovers to dance to.

Best song for a broken heart?
“My Town”: Kate & Anna McGarrigle

The best melody to sing while crying.

The song you’ve probably heard more times than any other.
“Fishin’ In The Dark”: The Nitty Gritty Band

I have been to many rural dances and listened to a lot of local country radio since 1997.

Bjørn Hammershaug

Lizz Wright: Grace against fear and division

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Lauded North Carolina-based singer-songwriter Lizz Wright is about to release her new, highly anticipated album GRACE, a deeply rooted, spiritual collection of songs that reveal her close connection to her Southern heritage and candid commentary on the region’s current political and social upheaval.

GRACE is an affectionate refusal of fear and division,” Wright says. “A testament of belonging and trust.”

Lizz Wright has distilled Southern music traditions throughout her career, integrating jazz, gospel, R&B and blues into her musical expression. Still, GRACE reflects some sort of a homecoming for her, as she traces the landscapes from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the lands of her folks in Georgia. Together with photographer Jesse Kitt, she even went on a road trip to reconnect with family, friends and strangers to seek the true voice of the South at the moment.

From a body of about 70 cover songs, 10 various works were selected for these recordings, including wonderful translations of music by Ray Charles, Allen Toussaint, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and others. “I wanted to respond with rooted affection to the forged tide of divisiveness and distrust that was being relentlessly projected across the media in the wake of the 2016 elections,” Wright tells us.

The album came to fruition with the assistance of an excellent cast of musicians, including pianist and choir director Kenny Banks Sr., guitarists Marc Ribot, Chris Bruce and Marvin Sewell, bassist David Piltch, drummer Jay Bellerose and keyboardist Patrick Warren, while Joe Henry tied it all together as album producer.

Henry and Wright go way back. ”It was and remains an honor to have been Lizz’s scout along the journey of GRACE,” Wright says in a statement. “And in such dark times, we are all as musicians called to answer brutality with wild and inclusive beauty. When Lizz now sings, I am allowed to feel by extension that I am doing something of my part. What a gift that has been to me. What a gift she offers all.”

So true. In this interview, the singer-songwriter elaborated on her forthcoming LP and the story behind it.

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Congratulations on your new album. What do we get and what’s it about?

Thanks! GRACE is a documented conversation between two writers and longtime friends: a producer of (mostly) Americana and folk music and a gospel-jazz singer. We are both children of the South — Joe from North Carolina and me from Georgia — with roots in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

This project reflects the unhurried and open spirit of our dialogue and makes of it a space that others can move through. The experience of sharing this environment is the message itself.

What was your initial idea for this album when you started to choose material for it?

I’d been holding the working title of GRACE for over a year before actually starting the project. The executive producer, Joe McEwen, gave me a birthday card a couple of years ago with GRACE on the front, and I guess it got inscribed in my brain. Figured I’d be writing a title track, but Rose Cousins had already heard the call and her song is absolutely perfect. I dropped my gaze and cried when I first heard it.

Great writing can spark an overwhelming sense of relief.

How did you make these songs into your own?

The message and energy that I wanted to share were most important to me. Then Joe and I went looking for material, existing or to be crafted that could bring the message to life. I wanted to respond with rooted affection to the forged tide of divisiveness and distrust that was being relentlessly projected across the media in the wake of the 2016 elections. “A soft answer turns away wrath.”

Can you please shed some light on how you select which songs made the cut on the final album?

Joe Henry is a real wordsmith and historian. We were always working with a mound of strong ideas and stories in the material we considered. I love making records because I think the process makes me a better writer.

We designed a soft outline for the kind of landscape we wanted in sentiment and sonic texture. From there the process was like building a boat in the garage. It was all about clarity and discovery, how the pieces fit the vessel.

What can you tell about the recording process and working with this material in the studio?

This record offered me the easiest and fastest process I’ve had thus far. Much to Henry’s credit, of course. I am also grateful to be approaching 20 years in the music business. I feel more trust for the process and the people involved, so we cover more terrain. We get to new ideas faster.

The sessions were fun and deeply comforting. I’d sing for hours and go to my beachfront rental each night feeling like I had just gotten up from a long night of sleep.

You go way back with Joe Henry. How will you describe working with him for this project, and how did he guide you in the process?

Preproduction sessions happened in Pasadena. He’d greet me at the door looking like old money and walk me to his coffee machine and ask me in an original set of words each day how I was doing and what was on my mind. A few times I realized that just the way he dealt with me made me want to compose something on the spot. Maybe all good friends make us feel this way. I dunno.

We had a great conversation about the Dylan tune. I felt challenged by some of the lines and the fact that there were so many words. Also, Bob is no stranger to misery because he has no fear describing it. What Joe helped me realize without judgement is how genius it is to be able to address sadness and open it to find other things like mercy.

Looking back at your debut full length in hindsight, what are you most happy about and could it have been better?

I am most happy that I’m finally letting myself make one record at a time. I only wish I could have started it with the understanding that a project isn’t a resume for all that I know and can sing. It’s a captured moment that’s open for extended exploration, like a photograph, sculpture or painting. I got there after awhile, but from now on that wisdom is the starting point.

What in your opinion is the ultimate southern album?

Whoa!! How could I choose when I find sweet, iconic pieces scattered across so many projects and artists, classic and contemporary? Is there really one Southern record that every Southerner refers to as the one that sounds like home? I’d love to ask Joe this question. I don’t know how to hang my hat on one place.

And finally, please describe the ideal setting to ultimately enjoy GRACE.

A lot of this material was explored in front of fireplaces, my wood burning stove in Black Mtn and a cracking fireplace in Pasadena. I also heard the creek and cicadas in the background while I checked the rough mixes.

My favorite place to listen to music is speeding along switchbacks, sweeping through farmland and overgrown meadows.

Lizz Wright: GRACE
Concord Records
Release Date: September 15, 2017

Full track listing:

1) Barley – Birds of Chicago
2) Seems I’m Never Tired Lovin’ You – Carolyn Franklin
3) Singing In My Soul – Sister Rosetta Tharpe
4) “Southern Nights” – Allen Toussaint
5) “What Would I Do” – Ray Charles
6) “Grace” – Rose Cousins
7) “Stars Fell on Alabama” – Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish
8) “Every Grain of Sand” – Bob Dylan
9) “Wash Me Clean” – k.d. lang
10) “All the Way Here” – Lizz Wright & Maia Sharp

Lizz Wright and her band will tour in autumn of 2017, presenting a full multimedia production of photographs captured by Jesse Kitt as a backdrop to the live performance of GRACE.

Sep 15 Highline Ballroom – New York, NY
Sep 16 Ridgefield Playhouse – Ridgefield, CT
Sep 17 Shalin Liu Perf. Center – Rockport, MA
Sep 20 Howard Theatre – Washington, DC
Sep 22 Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
Sep 23 Live at the Ludlow – Cincinnati, OH
Sep 24 City Winery – Nashville, TN
Nov 01 City Winery – Chicago, IL
Nov 02 City Winery – Chicago, IL
Nov 03 Lawrence University – Appleton, WI
Nov 10 Exit Zero Festival – Cape May, NJ
Nov 12 Prudential Hall in MJPAC -Newark, NJ

Bjørn Hammershaug

Lenore.: Pacific Northwestern witch-folk

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Folk-pop outfit Lenore. is the story of two trained singer-songwriters about to withdraw from the music scene: Rebecca Marie Miller following her time as harmony vocalist in The Mynabirds and Joy Pearson burning out after a recent divorce.

But the two stumbled into each other at a show (a Pokey LaFarge gig) and hit off immediately, bonding over music, cigarettes and late night cocktails. Just a couple days later, Lenore. was born under the cheekily term ‘witch folk’. Things started to roll, and they’ve already started to stir some buzz in the Northwestern indie hub of Portland, described by both as a wonderful and supportive musical community.

The two soon assigned classical guitarist Edward Cameron and cellist Jessie Dettwiler as permanent band members and started recruiting other good folks for the recording, including guitarist Paul Rigby, drummer Dan Hunt (Neko Case) and bassist Dave Depper of Death Cab for Cutie. To tie it all together, they enlisted renowned producer John Askew (Alela Diane, Sera Cahoone, Laura Gibson).

So far, only two singles have been launched from their forthcoming full length debut (slated for a September 15 release), Sharp Spine, a gorgeous collaboration with Eric Bachman from Archers of Loaf and “Ether’s Arms”.

A sneak listen to their forthcoming album reveals a band deeply committed to strong and timeless songwriting, calling upon the husky vibes of Fleetwood Mac, the intimate wonders of Simon & Garfunkel or the ethereal bliss of Enya, all wrapped around the majestic scenery of the Pacific Northwest.

In anticipation of the new album, we hooked up with Rebecca and Joy to talk about their album, their favorite duo of all time and how their music is most comparable to a tree.

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Who is Lenore.?

Lenore. is the musical baby of singers and songwriters Rebecca Marie Miller and Joy Pearson. Our other full time members are Edward “Shredward” Cameron on the classical guitar and Jessie Dettwiler on cello.

What can you share about what your brand new single, “Ether’s Arms” and your forthcoming album?

Our newest single, “Ether’s Arms,” is a great representation of our darker, moodier, and more emotional work. It’s the perfect juxtaposition to our first single, “Sharp Spine”, a.k.a. ‘the feel good song of the summer,’ according to our Moms. The album explores that relationship between the light and the dark, with particular emphasis on the cyclical journey through both spaces.

“Sharp Spine” is a duet with Eric Bachman from Archers of Loaf. How did that collaborations came about?

Eric had been begging us for years to sing on one of our songs; it was exhausting… Kidding! We were fortunate enough to do some shows with Eric in 2016. Friendships were forged, and he happens to be a songwriting hero of ours. It was slightly terrifying to ask him to do Sharp Spine, but so dreamy to have him say yes.

What was your initial idea for the album, and what inspired you the most while writing songs for it?

The theme of the album is certainly centered around that relationship between light and dark and the traverse through those spaces that we all experience. When approaching how we wanted to record, we knew that we wanted to capture our live sound, but we also wanted to grow into a brand new sonic space that only experimenting in a recording studio affords.

How was the recording process? You worked with John Askew. How did his production duties help shape the album?

We were so fortunate to work with John, as well as stellar players Dave Depper, Dan Hunt, and Paul Rigby. Everyone came to the table with great ideas and open hearts and minds. Several of the songs on the album had never been performed live. They were completely shaped in the studio. John worked tirelessly never taking breaks, and his instinct for vibe is entirely spot on.

You’ve been described as witch-folk. What, if any, does such a term mean to you?

Witch-folk is a term we came up with in the very beginning of Lenore. that started off as mostly tongue in cheek, but hey, if the shoe fits! To us, it means folk music that has a dark edge and often leans into nature for inspiration and imagery. The effect of our singing voices combined has always felt a bit like alchemy; it’s felt like magic since the very beginning. #witchfolk

What would be your preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the LP?

Rivendell, upon returning from the fiery depths of Mount Doom after successfully destroying the one ring. Or, just in pajamas at home. Or on an approximately 40 minute road trip. All great options.

How would you pair the Lenore. LP with a meal or beverage?

Beverage over meal every time. Every. Time. So, varying incarnations of whiskey.

What’s your favorite duo of all time?

Definitely Obama/Biden. They are so missed.

Favorite debut album of all times and why?

Rebecca is still floored by Jeff Buckley’s Grace and Joy endured the rigors of puberty while listening to Fiona Apple’s Tidal. Jessie and Edward aren’t here to comment at this time, but we’re pretty sure that the Lenore. LP is their favorite debut album of all time. Right, guys?

If your music was a physical object, what would it be?

We’re a tree for sure: deep roots, wide branches, home to many, good for climbing, suitable for snoozing atop fallen pine needles, tire swing optional.

Bjørn Hammershaug

At close range with Blank Range

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Blank Range is a new quartet out of Nashville, blending gritty vocals with bluesy guitar licks, a colorful flavor of cosmic country and good ol’ rock & roll. The four-piece has just dropped their debut album Marooned with the Treasure via Sturdy Girls Records / Thirty Tigers. Blank Range have toured in support of Death Cab for Cutie, The Mountain Goats and the Drive-By Truckers and will be out with Jessica Lea Mayfield and the Mountain Goats this August. Get to know this exciting quartet a little better.

Who is Blank Range? Please introduce yourselves.

Blank Range comprises Jonathon Childers (guitar), Taylor Zachry (bass), Matt Novotny (drums) and Grant Gustafson (guitar). We’re a rock and roll band from Nashville, Tennessee with some real fire in the midst of all that smoke. We’re avid listeners, and we synthesize all our influences and musings to find our personal take on the power of a song in the context of the here and now. We all sing.

Congratulations on your debut full-length album. We’re more than excited! What’s it about?

Thank you very much! We’re so happy we finally get to share it. Marooned With the Treasure is a rock and roll postcard to right now. It’s a dynamic, cathartic soundtrack introduction to Blank Range.

What’s the story behind the album title?

Marooned With the Treasure is a lyric from «Labor of Love» that we really liked. It’s a thought-provoking image. Something about it brings me to the true nature of freedom in humanity, a sense of arrest due to societal confines or explanations that we’ve come up with throughout human history. Not so much scientific understanding. Really just the concept of dogma on all levels. Making sense of existence in the midst of all its absurdities. We had a few different meanings that we talked out in deciding to choose it as the title but also like leaving it open to interpretation and hearing what it means to other people.

Did you have clear ideas or visions on how it would be from the get-go, or did the album gradually evolve as a process?

This is the most quintessential ‘snapshot’ album that we could probably get at. We wrote most of these songs in August of 2016 at a cabin in Southern Wisconsin. We had a late summer writing retreat into the woods at an old cabin and came out with about 13 or 14 songs.

Spending the rest of August and most of September touring the West coast and scenic parts of the Southeast made quite a lasting impression on us. We got the photo for the album cover on that run. We came home and went into the studio and put the whole album down in four days. The vision realized on this album is the importance of immediacy, the present moment, the emotional power in the imperfection that is humanness.

Care to shed a little more light on the recording sessions?

We recorded with Brad Cook in Durham, North Carolina. Brad is a prolific force in music. He played in Megafaun, Hiss Golden Messenger, Sharon Van Etten and countless other bands. He has a great ear and an unforgettable personality. He’s a stellar friend. He had been asking about what we were working on and suggested trying some things out with him. He brought us out to North Carolina and had us rehearse at his place for a day to hear all the songs and then we went in the next day to Overdub Lane in Durham and started cutting. He really helped us focus on the songs and just getting in there and playing them live. Brad aimed to capture the immediacy mentioned earlier, like these songs couldn’t wait any longer to be played.

The sound was also sculpted in no small capacity by Chris Boerner and James Wallace, who helped engineer the recordings, and James played on the album.

What would be your preferred setting to ultimately enjoy the LP?

Brad Cook’s back room. He had the best sounding system I’ve ever heard.

How would you pair Marooned With the Treasure with a meal or beverage?

We’ve all really come to appreciate the crisp, refreshing bit of euphoria that is Topo Chico mineral water. Ideally, you would be in a place of overwhelming natural beauty where you could enjoy the smaller things while still attaining a more universal perspective, say, on the bank of a rocky stream surrounded by towering Redwood trees, or maybe on top of a boulder watching a devastating sunset over the Pacific Ocean.

You guys want to shout out to other Nashville acts to look out for these days?

Tristen, Teddy and the Rough Riders, Erin Rae, Harpooner, Andrew Combs, Banditos, Liz Cooper & The Stampede, The Lonely Biscuits, Faux Ferocious, Station Wagon, Airpark, Mark Fredson, Sunseeker and Futurebirds. There are so many friends making great music here in town. It’s impossible to name them all, but you don’t have to look far to find it.

What, in your opinion, is the most perfect debut album ever made and why?

I don’t know if I could name one, especially since there are four people in this band that all bring unique tastes to the table, but a few we like are:

Leonard Cohen: Songs of Leonard Cohen
Columbia, 1967

This collection of poems of the human experience was a slow burn for me, but made a huge impact over the years. He has the ability to destroy you with one line.

John Prine: John Prine
Atlantic, 1971

Same as the Cohen record, these songs are so special. It’s such a familiar but unique framing of life. John Prine is a devastator.

Television: Marquee Moon
Elektra, 1977

I remember being shown Marquee Moon in college for the first time, and I don’t know if I’ve stopped listening to it since. These songs are burned into my DNA.

Paul Simon: Paul Simon
Columbia, 1972

Is loosely a debut album but these songs have been important for all of us.

In light of recent events, what’s your view on the current political climate in the US?

On a grand, universal level, it’s rather absurd that our visions are so easily clouded by decisions and actions that sacrifice the well being of others as a result. Humanity, life and knowledge are not finite concepts; they are forever changing and shifting and redefining and reimagining. For me, one of the more important things to remember and to really work from is that, in the process of coexisting, ideas are what should be on the battlefields. Not people.

In our current political climate, the spectrum is seemingly very polarized. I heard a TED talk recently where a psychologist was studying the emotion of disgust and how that was reflected in the holding of political beliefs. People on one side are disgusted by the people on the other side. This seems to halt progress most of all. I think we have a responsibility to pull our world out of the gridlock of oppositional politics and group mentalities and to really start talking about IDEAS and stop accusing people. That seems so liberating as to make me feel certainly optimistic of our future.

And finally, if your music was a food, what would it be?

If our music was a food, it would be a cheeseburger with two Krispy Kreme donuts as the bun. It causes ones heart to race and their eyes to widen but leaves them tired and suffering from long term high blood pressure. Some of us are vegetarians in the band now, but that shouldn’t prohibit me from painting this picture because it’s right on.

Bjørn Hammershaug

Suzanne Santo: Turn Up the Love Jams

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Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Suzanne Santo, better known as one half of Americana duo HONEYHONEY, released her solo debut, the Butch Walker-produced Ruby Red on August 11th.

Santo and Walker, the latter of whom has worked with the likes of P!nk, Carly Rae Jepsen, Keith Urban, Frank Turner and more, first worked together on Walker’s 2016 album Stay Gold, around the time when Suzanne Santo started to explore her own identity, ignore genre boundaries and defy expectations. “He facilitates a great time and an artistic environment that orbits solely around what’s best for the song, which is so rare in a business full of egos,” Santo says of Walker. “Butch and this environment liberated and enabled me to work in a way that I never knew I was capable of.”

On her own, she delved into a new type of songwriting inspired by, amongst others, Erykah Badu, Alabama Shakes and David Bowie – one that Walker is most fond of. “This record is so fucking sexy, I can’t deal,” Walker says of Ruby Red. “Put it on and turn out the lights.”

Ruby Red deals with love, life and lust in the modern world, unveiling an eclectic fashion ranging from Southern gothic to slow-burning soul and pop noir. Make sure to give this wonderful album some spins, and also check out her killer playlist made exclusively for TIDAL, including comments on each track.

Emily King: “Distance”

When I first heard this song, I felt like crying and dancing, and I did just that.

Jake Bugg: “Simple As This”

About five years ago, my band HONEYHONEY opened for Jake for about three months. I watched his set almost every night and never got sick of it. This song is one of my favorites.

The Be Good Tanyas: “Out of the Wilderness”

I love this band so much. I saw them play at the El Rey Theater in LA over 10 years ago and stood in the crowd loving them so much and wanting so badly to be on that stage one day. I couldn’t help but felt their presence when HONEYHONEY had our record release for our 3rd album at the El Rey.

Margaret Glaspy: “You And I”

It is very difficult to pick just one song off Maragret’s last record as they’re all SO DAMN GOOD. This song especially, is the titties.

Beck: “Guess I’m Doin Fine”

Had to throw this heartbreaker in there… Oh life!

Alabama Shakes: “Dunes”

The first time I heard this song I listened to it like 8 times in a row. I think this record is one in a million. I listen to this as much as I listen to Ziggy Stardust.

Erykah Badu: “Kiss Me On My Neck”

I love how fucking brave Erykah Badu is. She inspires me so much.

Cary Ann Hearst: “Hell’s Bells”

By far, one of my favorite voices out there. When coming up with my idea board for my new record produced by Butch Walker, I referenced this song for inspiration and he said “Ummm, I produced that record.” I’ll call that a win right there.

Led Zeppelin: “In My Time of Dying”

What is there to say other than this is all you need for optimum rocking capacity.

White Stripes: “Icky Thump”

Straight rock.

Band of Skulls: “Light Of The Morning”

Straight rock again….

Blitzen Trapper: “Black River Killer”

An old boyfriend turned me on to this band. The relationship didn’t last, but the rock lives on.

Old Crow Medicine Show: “Don’t Ride That Horse”

I love this band and used to work at a BBQ restaurant in LA and listen to this record on repeat. Coincidentally I’m touring with Willie Watson from Old Crow this fall and am STOKED about it.

Bjørn Hammershaug

Nicole Atkins: 5 Albums That Changed My Life

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It has been said that Nicole Atkins is untethered to decade or movement, or even the whim of the hipster elite. Drawing inspiration from soul and R&B, 1950s crooners and girl groups and the Brill Building School of Classic Songwriting, Atkins is closer to being the heir to the legacy of Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and Carole King.

The highly esteemed Asbury Park, New Jersey singer and songwriter entered the scene with her debut full-length, Neptune City, in 2007 and has steadily launched critically acclaimed albums since.

Atkins’ latest album, Goodnight Rhonda Lee, came this July on Single Lock, the Florence, Alabama-based label founded by Ben Tanner of Alabama Shakes, John Paul White of The Civil Wars and Will Trapp. Single Lock was primarily an outlet for music from the Shoals, including Dylan LeBlanc and St. Paul and the Broken Bones, but now the Nashville-residing Atkins fits more than perfectly into the fold of Southern greatness.

Goodnight Rhonda Lee was yet again met with deservedly rave reviews, but the album came to fruition in a difficult transitional time for Atkins, involving struggles with sobriety and her father’s lung cancer diagnosis. The album title refers to her alias for bad behavior and how it was time for her to put that person to bed. She also reconnected with her old friend Chris Isaak, who encouraged her to write songs that emphasized her vocal strengths (the pair co-wrote the opening track, stunningly beautiful and tellingly entitled “A Little Crazy”).

In order to pursue a timeless sound, she enlisted Niles City Sound music studio in Forth Worth, Texas, including two members of four-piece rock band White Denim, who rose to fame a couple years back for their pivotal role in shaping the sound of Leon Bridges. “We spoke the same language,” says Atkins. “We wanted to make something classic, something that had an atmosphere and a mood of romance and triumph and strength and soul.” Five days of intense live to tape recording made the modern classic Goodnight Rhonda Lee, another giant leap forward for an artist seemingly without the ability to misstep — at least when it comes to creating art.

To dig deeper into her musical roots, we asked Nicol Atkins to share five life-changing albums with you all.

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The Who: Tommy
This is the first record I can remember hearing as a kid. It put me in another world, and I was already new to this one! I used to answer the door at four years old for the mailman and tell him I was the Acid Queen like Tina Turner. I was obsessed.

Traffic: John Barleycorn Must Die
When I was 12, I was trying to fit in at my school and asked my Uncle Chuck to take me to the record shop so I could buy a New Kids on the Block tape. Like I said, I was just tryin’ to fit in. We got to the shop and he made me buy Traffic instead. As soon as I heard the playfulness, soul and downright epic-ness of “Staring at Empty Pages,” I forgot all about my need for middle school acceptance.

James Brown: Live at the Apollo
Many, many hours spent in my room to this record pretending I was there at the show dancing and throwing hands at my imaginary band. This record also made me seek out Maceo Parker records, which led to the Funky Meters, which led to Allen Toussaint and so on. James Brown was my gateway drug.

Erykah Badu: Baduizm
When I first heard this record, I thought it was so refreshing. Still do. It was a modern take on jazz and R&B, and it was so personal. She was a poet and so authentic, and I really felt like I knew her listening to this record. She wasn’t dialing in a style. It inspired me to start writing poetry and my own songs.

Denise James: It’s Not Enough To Love
Denise is a singer-songwriter from Detroit. I was working for her record label in 2004. I must’ve listened to this record on repeat that entire summer. It was classic songwriting in the style of Dan Penn and the production took a nod from 1950s’ girl groups. It inspired me to want to give the music my parents grew up with a place in my own time too.

Bjørn Hammershaug